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WHY WE NEED MORE NEGATIVE PRESS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

3:33 PM Tuesday November 18, 2008

DAVID CHAPLIN by David Chaplin

I was at a conference last week where a woman stood up and blamed the press for creating the global financial crisis (or “the GFC” as insiders now refer to it).

The cheek of it, the session wasn’t even about media incompetence. I took offence on behalf of journalists everywhere. If anything, I’d argue that the media wasn’t negative NEGATIVE PRESS - by Kaitlyn McKinley enough in the couple of years leading up to July 2007 when everything started to sink.

Perhaps the press should’ve been a bit harder on, say, CDOs (the now-infamous collateralised debt obligation investments) or pointed out more forcefully the dangers of excessive debt building up in the world’s financial system or just generally tried to poop the party.

A more sceptical media might’ve been able to pierce a little sooner the giant bubble of “greed, jealousy and hubris”, as Jack Brennan, head of Vanguard (one of the world’s largest fund managers), described the state of the pre-GFC financial world.

Brennan, speaking via video at the same Auckland conference (a gathering of Australian superannuation industry types), told the delegates "greed, jealously and hubris" enabled intelligent people to ignore known risks in the pursuit of easy money.

There are a couple of reasons why the financial media was helpless in the face of exuberance. Partly, PRINTING WORKSHOP - Photo - Warren Bucklandit’s because we were enjoying the party too. But it’s true too that almost no-one else was willing to predict how and when it would all come crashing down – what’s a journalist without “sources”?

And then there’s the legal constraints. Well before the collapse of Bridgecorp, for example, it was well-known in media circles that the company was in trouble. Bridgecorp, however, had a particularly belligerent approach to the press, which killed off plenty of negative stories.

Blue Chip also kept its lawyers on speed-dial. Although, I didn’t know that when a financial adviser whispered to me at a conference a couple of years ago: “Have you heard of a crowd called Blue Chip… they’re doing dodgy things mate.”

Should’ve followed that one up.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD’ (Pakistan)

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Posted in BANKING SYSTEMS, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, INTERNATIONAL, NEW ZEALAND, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN) | Leave a Comment »

RUPEE GAINS ON HOPES OF DOLLARS’ INFLOW (India)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008 Tuesday Ziqa’ad 19, 1429

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Nov 17: Rising hopes for inflow of foreign exchange changed the exchange market A FIFTY RUPEES BILLsentiments and reduced speculations which strengthened the rupee significantly against the dollar on Monday.

The Saturday’s announcement on $7.6 billion IMF loan package for Pakistan supported the factors resisting the free fall of rupee and the local currency gained 35 to 40 paisas in the inter-bank market.

The dollar was traded at as low as Rs79.80 while it was at Rs80.20/25 on Saturday. This was a big slide of dollar which gained over 24 per cent since January 2008.

If the IMF board approves the agreement which is yet to be signed, Pakistan could get $4 billion in one year and that would fill the balance of payments gap.

The advisor to prime minister on finance had stated recently that the IMF loan would help Pakistan fill gaps (imbalances) of two years.

It was also announced that friends of Pakistan were ready to support, but they want endorsement of the IMF.

“The government’s announcement and IMF’s response largely impacted the market which cautiously moved in favour of rupee,” said Atif Ahmed, a currency dealer in the inter-bank market.

The currency dealers were cautious to predict about further recede of dollars against rupee, but said that the rupee may get more strength once dollars practically reach Pakistan and build the reserves.

“The speculative and panic elements will find it difficult to get place once reserves reach up to $12 billion and more,” said Atif.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘DAWN’ (Pakistan)

Posted in CURRENCIES, DOLLAR (USA), ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL MARKETS, IMF, INDIA, INTERNATIONAL, RUPEE (India), THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS | Leave a Comment »

WORLD ECONOMIES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

November 17, 2008 Monday Ziqa’ad 18, 1429

Gulf States

Oil-dependent Arab states will be hurt as the global economy slides into recession, but a huge windfall WORLD ECONOMIESaccumulated over the past few years from oil sales will help them minimise the impact. Undoubtedly, the Gulf economies will be affected, but the impact will be much less than in the industrial world. The main impact will be a drop in demand for oil, and consequently revenues.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), grouping Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is estimated to have sold oil worth around $3 trillion over the past six years.

The GCC governments had foreign assets of $1.8 trillion at the end of last year. This is expected to top $2 trillion by the end of 2008. Despite the sharp drop in oil prices, GCC states will end up this year with a good surplus. However, projects still in the pipeline are likely to be affected by delays.

The region’s stock markets have been severely affected by the global crisis, plunging 20 per cent, or close to $200 billion in value. The impact of the global financial meltdown on Gulf economies could spread much wider and deeper. Financing for Gulf mega-projects will become scarce and its cost higher. The region’s markets for large-scale project finance and real estate will be particularly affected by this credit crunch.

Some Gulf projects are already facing finance problems. The main impact will be on the real estate sector, mainly in the UAE and Qatar because they have been growing at a fast pace. Petrochemicals and other industries will remain safe, but petrochemicals and aluminum exports, the main Gulf products other than oil, will also be affected. The estimated $2.5 trillion value of foreign investments held by Gulf governments and the private sector is also expected to be reduced by a slump in asset prices worldwide. Some economists say Gulf investments may have already lost hundreds of billions of dollars of their book value.

Finance ministers and central bankers from Gulf on the other hand expect their economies to continue to grow despite the global financial crisis and a sharp drop in oil prices. The officials underscored the “strength and solvency” of the financial sector and stressed that the region can weather any impact from the global financial crisis. They have voiced satisfaction over measures taken to deal with any impact from the world economic crisis and expressed readiness to take any additional measures.

Although the region is not much dependent on the international economy, Middle Eastern agriculture and manufacturing, the main providers of job opportunities, have still become less competitive because of the increasing pressure to export goods to the global markets at lower prices. At the same time, inflation is running above 10 per cent in much of the region due to rising commodity prices. Inflation is also being driven upward because the currencies of many of the Gulf countries are pegged to the US dollar.

A prolonged slowdown in the international economy will also cause remittances, job creation, tourism and foreign aid to decline and unemployment to increase, particularly among the youth. The economic downturn will also slow the flow of educated Arab workers into jobs in the oil sector. Before the global financial crisis, the region benefited whether oil prices were high or low, since the region has both oil producers and consumers. But Middle East producers and consumers are now likely to suffer from either higher or lower oil prices as the financial crisis spreads because of the sustained drop in foreign investment coming into the region.

The 2009 GDP forecast for GCC as a region has been revised from 6.2 per cent to 4.5 per cent in 2009 due to the weakening global backdrop and lower oil prices. In Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, oil output is likely to decrease in 2009, pulling down GDP growth to 4 per cent. Inflation will continue to rise in 2008 to 9.8 per cent and start coming down in 2009 to 9 per cent. In the UAE, the GCC’s most diversified and open economy, credit crunch and global downturn will hit open economy and growth will slow down in 2009 to 4.5 per cent. Inflation is likely to increase this year to 11.8 per cent before coming down next year to 10.5 per cent.

Qatar, with both its oil and non-oil sectors growing at double-digit speed, will remain one of the fastest-growing markets in 2008 with 14.5 per cent real GDP growth. However, supply bottlenecks and deeply negative policy rates will push inflation higher in 2008 to 15.6 per cent. Qatar’s investment driven, capital-intensive growth will face headwinds in 2009.

In Oman, with declining oil output, the economy is being propelled by services and gas-based industries in 2008 with expected GDP growth of 6.8 per cent. Despite a $15 billion investment plan for the oil and gas sectors, the outlook is less than rosy with high recovery costs and limited reserves. Inflation at 12 per cent is pushed up by food and rent prices, along with negative real interest rates that boost bank lending.

The Kuwaiti macro story continues to be driven by oil. The lack of political determination for diversification has caused Kuwait to lag most of its GCC neighbors so far with GDP growth forecast of 5.6 percent in 2008. Inflation as elsewhere continues to climb to 9.7 percent in 2008. In Bahrain, the non-oil sector remains the main driver of the resource-poor economy. With limited petrodollars, the budget surplus should stay modest at 7 percent of GDP by regional standards, while inflation should continue to rise in 2008 to 5.5 percent, the region’s lowest.

Asian economies

Most Asian economies are in a better position to weather the global financial storm due to significant foreign reserves, and painful lessons gleaned from the 1997 crisis. Growth in the Emerging Asia region is projected to moderate to 7.7 per cent in 2008 and 7 per cent in 2009, from 9.25 per cent last year, according to the World Economic Outlook report released by the International Monetary Fund.

Asia’s projected positive but slower growth will be propelled by the regional twin engines of China and India. Both countries are expected to experience lower demand on weaker exports but should continue to be supported by strong private consumption.

Growth in China eased to 10.5 per cent (year-on-year) in the first half of 2008, 2.5 per cent slower than the same period last year, partly due to slackening exports. However, activity continued to be supported by steady investment growth and accelerating consumption. India is not immune from the global liquidity crunch. India is likely to register GDP growth of 7.9 per cent in 2008, which may slip to 6.9 per cent in 2009, compared to 9.3 per cent last year. Indian growth in the second quarter slipped to 7.9 per cent, having risen by 8.8 per cent in the preceding quarter, on the back of weakening investment while private consumption and export growth have held up well.

IMF projects that the ongoing financial turmoil will have minimal impact on India, which is still largely a closed economy. The relatively high 7 per cent growth forecast reflects India’s strong internal growth dynamics from rapid productive growth and from its process of integration into the global economy that is still continuing. Emerging Asia can anticipate more weakness ahead in response to slowing demand from advanced economies and growing strains in regional financial markets.

The two biggest newly industrialised economies, South Korea and Taiwan, will see growth moderate, with South Korea’s economy expanding 4.1 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent in 2009. Taiwan will see 3.8 per cent growth in 2008 and 2.5 per cent next year. In the newly industrialized Asian economies (NIEs) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economies, activity has also been decelerating. Domestic demand has softened, as rising food and fuel prices have started to weigh on consumption, while declining profit margins and weakening demand have prompted firms to scale back their investment plans.

Asia’s financial system is little affected by the US sub-prime mortgage problems that have triggered a global crisis. The impact on the financial sector in Asia is limited. Still, Asia’s economic growth will lose steam because of the slowdown in the US and Europe, which are main export markets for Asia.

The Asian Development Bank’s projection that overall growth rate in Asia would be 1.5-2.0 percentage points slower this year, but that is not necessarily a problem, as many Asian economies have “overheated.”

According to ADB’s latest outlook, Asia overall will continue to post robust growth, while slashing growth projections for the global economy and predicting that the United States would continue losing traction. But the growth among emerging Asian economies is forecast to moderate to 7.7 per cent in 2008 and 7.1 per cent in 2009, from 9.3 per cent in 2007. Weakening external demand is likely to weigh on exports, but, in some cases, the impact may be mitigated by still-loose macroeconomic policies and currency depreciation.

The Director General of the United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development has warned the global downturn will continue into 2009. Economists at the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) says Asia’s export sector, a key driver of most economies, will be hit by a downturn in the European and US economies. But a downturn will be eased somewhat by the strength in domestic consumption in Asia, with most governments holding substantial foreign exchange reserves.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘DAWN’ (Pakistan)

Posted in ASIA, BANKING SYSTEMS, CENTRAL BANKS, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, IMF, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIES, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, PETROL, THE ARABIAN PENINSULA, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS | Leave a Comment »

KUWAIT READY TO CUT OUTPUT – Oil minister says his country will not hesitate to slash production if OPEC decides to cut output

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

First Published 2008-11-17, Last Updated 2008-11-17 08:51:48

KUWAIT CITY – Kuwait is prepared to cut its oil output if its partners in OIL CUTSthe Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries decide to slash production, the oil minister said on Sunday.

“Kuwait will not hesitate to support the world oil market and will cut production… based on an agreement between OPEC members,” Mohammad al-Olaim told the official KUNA news agency.

He called for a revision of the oil market to “restore balance between actual need for crude,” and supply, adding that inventories of many countries are full of surplus oil that could lead to a glut in the market.

Kuwait is the fourth largest OPEC producer with a daily output of 2.4 million barrels.

The OPEC cartel is scheduled to hold an extraordinary meeting on November 29 in Egypt amid speculation that member nations will agree to cut output in a bid to boost plunging oil prices.

Iran, OPEC’s second largest producer, said it will propose slashing output by between 1.0 million and 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd).

Prices of crude have collapsed by about two-thirds since striking record peaks above 147 dollars in July on concern that a prolonged global recession could slam the brakes on energy demand.

OPEC agreed on October 24 to reduce production by 1.5 million bpd from November 1, but prices have continued to slide since then.

Oil prices closed mixed on Friday amid growing signs of economic woes in the United States and Europe, despite the possibility of a new output cut.

Light sweet crude for December delivery fell 1.20 dollars a barrel to close at 57.04 dollars while Brent North Sea crude for January rose 2.25 dollars a barrel to settle at 54.24 dollars.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘MIDDLE EAST ON LINE’

Posted in INTERNATIONAL, KUWAIT | Leave a Comment »

ANALYSIS: THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Written by IM Mohsin

History also bears out that the Afghans can’t tolerate ‘occupation’. No AFGHANISTANwonder since 2006 the Taliban have been on the rampage. Even Kabul remains tentatively safe. During my last visit home to Peshawar, I was met by a few Afghans who told me of the reign of terror prevailing in Jalalabad, Paktia and Kabul etc as the state machinery/ foreign forces could not cope with prevailing mayhem. The spill-over effect of Afghan ‘insurgency’ is widely felt in Pakistan; more so in NWFP/ Baluchistan. History and geography combine to create challenges which the elected Govt and its armed forces have to face daily.

The situation gets vitiated by the US drone-attacks on ‘suspects’ from across the border. Such tactics tend to swell the numbers of Taliban as per the local culture of the binding nature of Revenge. As per the Pashtun code of honour, border becomes besides the point in chasing the ‘killers’. Hence the clandestine movement of the ‘insurgents’ across the border which NATO troops plus about 80 thousand Pakistani troops can’t eradicate,

Pretty much like the Mexican border for the US.

The above menacing milieu makes Pakistan most important in the current BUSH SEES NOTHING context. Firstly, it blocks the spread of insurgency. Secondly, it ensures the maintenance of the life-line/ supplies for the foreign forces in Afghanistan. Thirdly, it alone can provide cheapest transportation of aid-wares across the border. Fourthly, despite our ambivalent role, most Afghans still have more goodwill for Pakistan than any other country because of history/ culture etc.

The seizure of a 13-truck convoy on 10th Nov in Khyber Pass and subsequent action, including the use of air-power, by Pakistan created considerable complications and alarm among the people. However, the trucks were abandoned but the eatables were seized by the insurgents along-with 2 new humvees. I learnt in Peshawar that some of the wheat was distributed by the Taliban among the locals while the rest was sold at lower rates. They also displayed the seized vehicles as the ‘war booty’. As almost 400 trucks daily cross Torkham in to Afghanistan carrying supplies for the foreign troops, Pakistan had to suspend the traffic till a new strategy was put in to force. The traffic resumed Nov 17 as Pakistan deployed a bigger number of forces to escort the supply-convoys besides soliciting the cooperation of the locals.

A report in The Washington Post of 16th Nov indicates that the US/ Pakistan have reached a deal in Sept about the predator attacks on AN AMERICAN SNIPERsuspected targets on the basis of “don’t-ask- don’t-tell policy”. Pakistan has not changed her policy of condemning such attacks which, invariably, involve civilian casualties. Better collaboration between ISAF and Pak forces may prove more useful. This was proved by the Pakistani intervention on 16th Nov in Pakitika which relieved a base of the former under attack.

US have been pursing a way-out of the Afghan quagmire lately. It has launched the Saudi King in to the process. Karzai has been trying to come to terms with the Taliban led by Mullah Umar despite the fact that the latter has a $ multi-million as head-money a la US. He committed to go all out to provide “Protection” to the Taliban leader as per by BBC. He further emphasized that “If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, then the international community has two choices: remove me, or leave…”. In this context, trying to win ‘the hearts of minds of the people’ is the best option which collateral damage inflicted by drone/ missile attacks can’t cause.

The end of 2001 heralded a dangerous change in the ground realities in the subject countries. Afghanistan got ‘occupied’ by the foreign forces while the Taliban regime collapsed, militarily despite the fierce resistance US AIR FORCE PERSONELit offered, and politically as its political capital was nominal. Pakistan, under Musharraf, due to sympathy/ inducement, joined hands with the US in waging its ‘war on terror’ a la neo-con agenda. Due to the Geography and pro-US sentiments, Pakistan proved to be the linchpin in such operations.

Subsequently the ‘victors’ realized that it was crucial to keep Pakistan onboard their bandwagon. It is no coincidence that this arrangement also eminently suited Musharraf who had seized power by ousting an elected Govt earlier on. Prior to 9/11, he was treated as a pariah by Bill Clinton as well George w. However, the neo-con game-plan took effect with the fall of the Twin Towers. Musharraf got rehabilitated in the US corridors of power under a ‘threat’ from, as he claimed, Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State insisting that he if did not join then Pakistan would be ‘bombed in to stone age’. The concerned official denied the same after leaving the office.

The Bonn Conference of 2002 laid down the blueprint of a surrogate regime under Karzai. Flush with success against the Taliban, and wanting to impress the public opinion at home, the US Administration/ allies made prolific promises. As per the Bonn Charter a ‘Democratic’ Afghanistan under the new dispensation was to get fabulous amounts of aid for ‘Reconstruction’ etc. This again underlined the importance of the Pakistan-link as Afghanistan is a landlocked country and the most feasible trade etc route for her is through Pakistan. Moreover as Pakistan shares long porous border with the western neighbor along the Durand Line, its whole-hearted support was worth any cost, particularly in early days of Karzai regime.

The US first assessed Pakistan’ indispensability in the pursuit of its adventure in the area which led to the revival of her military aid etc as there is no free- lunch in their culture. Initially the quick cessation of hostilities bolstered the neo-cons at home which also encouraged them to attack Iraq on the pretext of ‘WMD’. This slogan together with the stated-objective of removing a ‘hated-dictator’ after a dazzling victory in Afghanistan must also have yielded high political dividends at home. In the aftermath of 9/11, the people in the US lived under a fear-complex which was aggravated by media-hype, let loose by the official agencies etc, to bolster the image of the incumbent Administration. This process appears to have got particularly animated before the 2004 Presidential elections.

By 2005, Afghanistan started experiencing considerable insecurity. This was due to the persecution-complex among the Pashtuns in the South-East who faced a famine-like situation. Moreover, the Taliban started making their presence felt by attacking softer targets. As Karzai could not establish his writ all over the country, the warlords appeared to have taken over, particularly in the North/ South. The Northern warlords started making a fortune by exporting drugs from the massive cultivation of opium. Moreover the development program projected by the Bonn Conference could not be kept up by the donors. They spent lavishly on military operations which, together with the resistance from the Taliban, relegated reconstruction to the backburner and provoked anger. Such factors created a monstrous situation for the majority of local people who started feeling sick of the proxy-rule which bred insecurity and hunger etc.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘WorldFutures’ (Indonesia)

Posted in FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

MACQUARIE BANK CUTS COSTS IN $15BN GLOBAL FIRE SALE (Australia)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

November 19, 2008

Scott Murdoch

Article from: The Australian

MACQUARIE Group has acted decisively to restore investor confidence NICHOLAS MOOREby revealing plans to wind back $15 billion worth of struggling businesses and use the capital to pay down high wholesale finance costs.

The group, one of the worst performers on the ASX in the past year, also plans to increase acquisitions and shift away from a pure investment banking model, as the global credit crisis forces a realignment of its business.

The move is expected to result in hundreds of job losses across the Macquarie business, but chief executive Nicholas Moore admitted yesterday there was “no missive from head office” to sack a specific number of workers.

The grim outlook for staff came as the diversified bank booked a $604 million net profit for the first half, which beat the market’s consensus of $593 million.

The result was down 43 per cent on the $1.06 billion earned previously, but because figures were not as bleak as analysts’ expectations the stock soared by up to 27 per cent during the session.

Macquarie’s profit numbers revealed that it was forced to make $1.14 billion worth of write-downs, primarily on the Italian mortgages business and the group’s embattled satellite funds.

The write-downs hit the bottom line by $395 million, and Mr Moore forecast a further $400million should be written off in the current half.

Macquarie also made $145 million worth of loan impairment provisions and said a $6.5 billion bridging loan between the group and the non-operational holding company would not be refinanced but instead amortised next year.

The bank holds $3.3 billion worth of surplus capital on its balance sheet, but the tier-one capital ratio has declined slightly from 12.4 per cent to 11 per cent.

Mr Moore, who delivered his first set of results as chief executive after replacing Alan Moss in May, said Macquarie was in a strong position despite the torrid financial markets and the slip in profits.

“In the last 14 months we all have experienced unprecedented market conditions,” he said.

“When bankers get together one question they seem to ask each other is: have you seen anything like this before? I haven’t actually seen anything like this before. Why didn’t we see what’s happening in the world today? Well, we are human.”

The bank will exit from $15 billion worth of embattled businesses, especially its Italian and Australian mortgage books and Hong Kong real estate assets.

Macquarie has sold $8 billion of those so far, with another $7 billion due to be sold in the next few months.

A number of motor vehicle leasing and financing business books will be warehoused before being securitised to remove them from the bank’s balance sheet.

A deal is also likely soon to sell Macquarie’s margin lending book, with several buyers now carrying out due diligence.

“The $15 billion that we have the potential to free up on our balance sheet — that would be going into our banking business,” Mr Moore told The Australian. “We would look at our ability to redeploy that into business activities. If we did not see an opportunity, we could repay the wholesale funding that we have today.”

Mr Moore said Macquarie had been approached with a number of potential acquisitions, particularly businesses pitching to be bought by the investment bank.

In the past year it has bought a Canadian equities business and Guiliani Capital, a US distressed debt firm that is riding the high rate of corporate defaults.

Macquarie could look to increase its infrastructure investment in Australia through unlisted projects on the back of the government’s increased spending package.

The bank will also use the Government’s move to lend the national AAA-credit rating for wholesale funds raising, but not in the short-term future.

Macquarie chief financial officer Greg Ward said the bank would offer guaranteed and non-guaranteed products for retail investors, once the policy came into place on November 28.

Macquarie declared a $1.45 interim divided, franked at 80 per cent, and operating income was off 37 per cent. The group’s earnings per share slipped 46 per cent to $2.17. It affirmed that second-half profit should be in line with the first half. The implied full-year earnings of $1.208 billion was line with analysts’ expectations of $1.195 billion.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

Posted in AUSTRALIA, BANKING SYSTEMS, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, INTERNATIONAL, STOCK MARKETS | Leave a Comment »

LEBANON FINDS AUSSIE TERRORIST BELAL SAADALLAH KHAZAAL GUILTY

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

November 15, 2008

by Natalie O’Brien

Article from: The Australian

A FORMER Qantas employee who became the second person convicted Belal Saadallah Khazaal, of Lakemba, in Sydney, Australiaunder Australia’s tough anti-terror laws has been found guilty in absentia of terrorism charges in Lebanon.

At a sentencing hearing in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday, lawyers for Belal Saadallah Khazaal, who has been found guilty of producing a book knowing it could assist in a terrorist act, argued that his convictions in Lebanon should not be taken into account because he was never able to put his side of the case.

Khazaal, 38, of Lakemba in Sydney’s southwest, was convicted in absentia in Lebanon for his alleged involvement in funding the 2003 bombing of a McDonald’s restaurant in Beirut.

He was sentenced in absentia to 15 years for falsifying a passport for another Australian man who had fled to Lebanon from Australia.

This information was not revealed to the jury in his NSW Supreme Court trial, at which he was convicted in September of producing a book described as a “do-it-yourself terrorism guide” containing an assassination hit-list that included US President George W. Bush.

In the first conviction of its kind in Australia, Khazaal was found guilty of the offence of compiling a book knowing it could assist in a terrorist act.

However, the NSW Supreme Court jury failed to reach a verdict on a second charge against Khazaal of attempting to incite a terrorist act.

On that basis, Khazaal’s barrister, George Thomas, argued that any sentence handed down to his client must be at the lower end of the scale.

Khazaal was arrested and charged in June 2004 over the publication on the internet of a 110-page book titled Provision on the Rules of Jihad – short judicial rulings and organisational instructions for fighters and mujahideen against infidels.

He was among the first people charged after the federal Government introduced tough new terrorism laws in late 2003.

Khazaal’s conviction followed that in June 2006 of Sydney architect Faheem Khalid Lodhi, who became the first person convicted under the new laws.

The book listed various means of assassination, including letter-bombs, booby-trapping cars, kidnappings, poisonings and shooting down planes.

The book also contained a hit-list of officials and countries to be targeted, including Australia and the US.

In the Supreme Court yesterday, Khazaal’s close friend and doctor Tamir Khalil said Khazaal was suffering from medical ailments including a possible neurological condition that might have affected his behaviour at the time of the offence.

Dr Khalil said he had known Khazaal for many years and had never known him to display any violent tendencies, or even to talk about violence. But the doctor said Khazaal’s medical history indicated a possibility he might have a tumour on his brain and this should be investigated.

Khazaal’s wife, Mervat, gave evidence, telling the court her husband spent a lot of time working with angry Muslim youths, trying to protect them from their own emotions.

“He tried to cool them down,” Ms Khazaal told the court.

She described her husband as a lovely man who was honest and generous and respected her.

During the trial, US terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann described the book as a do-it-yourself guide to terrorism aimed at people who did not have Osama bin Laden’s telephone number.

Khazaal will be sentenced at a date to be fixed next year.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

Posted in AUSTRALIA, INTERNATIONAL, JUDICIARY SYSTEMS, LEBANON | Leave a Comment »

LAHOUD: PRIORITY IS TO DEFEND LEBANON, NOT DISARM HIZBULLAH – ‘Israel is the enemy of all the Lebanese people’ – Abu Faour

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

by Nicholas Kimbrell – Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A successful national defense strategy is not about disarming Hizbullah, but about protecting THE ISRAELI WALL IN PALESTINELebanon, Minister of State Nassib Lahoud said Friday at a conference on the future of Lebanon’s national defense strategy. “We do not want Lebanon to be a battlefield for Israel or a comfort gift for a loser in the region,” he said.

Lahoud delivered his comments during a plenary session, entitled “The Regional Environment and its Effects on Lebanon,” on the first day of a national defense conference at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center.

The conference, hosted by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), aims to contribute to the ongoing national defense strategy talks in Lebanon – the centerpiece of national dialogue sessions chaired by President Michel Sleiman.

Speakers and attendees at Friday’s session included a collection of parliamentarians, Cabinet members, retired military brass, and academics.

The two-day conference comes at a pivotal time for Lebanon’s fledgling defense strategy talks – in the wake of Sleiman’s suspension of national dialogue sessions until late December and as the rival March 14 and March 8 coalitions debate competing defense proposals presented last week.

At the opening ceremony, Arab League representative Hisham Youssef, speaking on behalf of the organization’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, said that the conference was in a position to provide “recommendations and proposals that will enrich the national dialogue.”

The primary national duty of the Lebanese people and the citizens of the Arab world is to “put our efforts into preventing the vicious cycles of conflict and tension,” Youssef said, adding that Lebanon must commit itself to civil security and restrain from violent rhetoric and actions.

Many speakers followed suit, highlighting the ongoing threats facing Lebanon and the vulnerability of its state institutions. Ali Fayyad, a professor at the Lebanese University and president of the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation, noted Lebanon’s fragility and the precariousness of its internal divisions.

“Lebanon is a very fragile state … where institutions are incapable of absorbing political divisions,” Fayyad said. He cited Iraq and Palestine as other places where populations are forced to handle domestic discord, abetted by regional sponsorship.

Fayyad was one of the few representatives of the March 8 opposition bloc, and his commentary sparked lively responses from the audience, particularly remarks concerning relations with Iran and the importance of direct democracy.

Given the politically motivated spirit behind much of the discussion on Lebanon’s national defense policy, several partisan themes and disagreements were revisited Friday. Questions over Hizbullah’s arms, and over relations with Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia and the preeminent threat posed by Israel extended seminar blocks well beyond their allotted times.

Minister of State Wael Abu Faour said Israel remained the chief enemy of all Lebanese, regardless of their confessional and political affiliations.

“We are all convinced that Israel is the enemy of all the Lebanese people,” he said. “Of course, there are different enemies for different parties, but Israel is the common enemy.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lahoud, who noted that “we know Israel is the enemy.”

In his opening remarks Youssef saluted the success of the resistance in defending Lebanon from Israel, but said that the Arab League would like to see it operate in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to bolster the legitimacy of the state.

Michel Nawfal, the foreign editor of the Mustaqbal daily, a newspaper owned by the March 14-aligned Future Movement, argued for the need of a new conception of national security. Hizbullah should not be allowed to make decisions of war and peace without first consulting with the government, he said.

Nawfal proposed the idea of a “critical red line” with Israel, one that when violated could authorize the use of the resistance’s military capacity.

Speaking about the threat posed by Israel, professor and retired General Elias Hanna emphasized the importance of distinguishing between enemies and dangers.

“An enemy [can] bring us problems and a friend can bring us problems as well,” Hanna said in a tacit reference to both Israel and Syria. Due to these divergent dangers, he added, “defense strategy is a living thing.”

Mohammad Abbass, also a retired general and defense analyst, noted the many difficult choices facing the state and the Lebanese Army.

He noted that integrating Hizbullah into to the army could have negative consequences like diminishing defensive flexibility and potentially realigning the political orientation of the LAF.

Ultimately, Abbass said, the state must exercise control over the country. “Building the identity of Lebanon should go through building the army,” he said. But he added that “in its current state [the army] is unable to address these threats.”

Other panelists suggested that pursuing a national defense strategy before Lebanon’s spring parliamentary elections and Israel’s snap elections planned for early 2009 seemed a bit premature.

INEGMA, the host of the conference, which continues Saturday, will be opening an office in Beirut in the coming months.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE DAILY STAR’ (Lebanon)

Posted in HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISRAEL, LEBANON | Leave a Comment »

FIRST UNOFFICIAL OBAMA POSITIONS ON NEW WAR STRATEGIES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Published: November 14, 2008

by Walid Phares

As the transition in the United States between the administrations of Usama bin LadinGeorge W. Bush and Barack Obama is moving forward feverishly while world crises escalate, observers of conflicts are focusing on the messages emanating from the next foreign policy team in Washington.

The smooth passing of the torch from one leadership to another in the middle of unfinished wars and gigantic counterterrorism efforts is critical, especially if a strategic change of direction is on its way.

Analysts wonder about the nature of change to come: is it about managing battlefields or reducing them?

The first post election statements made by Obama sources – incorporated into a Washington Post article by Karen DeYoung published on Nov. 11, “Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War” – are very revealing.

Although these “conversations” with aides are still unofficial positions at the formal level, one must read them as the first salvo in setting the tone and guidelines for early 2009.

Thus, and in order to engage in a national discussion on what seems to be the near future, we must analyze these propositions one by one and contrast them with the intensity of the evolving threat.

Therefore, the following are early comments on the emerging new policies.

The Washington Post article began by stating that the Obama administration is planning on “exploring a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan including possible talks with Iran.” Citing Obama national security advisers, the Post added that the new strategy “looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and ‘reconcilable’ elements of the Taliban.”

These two so-called strategic components of the forthcoming administration’s plan to end the conflict in central Asia deserve a high level of attention and thorough examination. In a post Sept. 11, 2001 environment – meaning seven years into a confrontation with jihadist forces – not only experts but a large segment of the American public has developed a higher awareness of the threat of the enemy and of its long-term objectives. Arguments in foreign policy analysis are not as alien as they were to citizens prior to the 2001 attacks. Many Americans know who the Taliban are and what their goals are, and they know as well of the dangerous fantasies of the mullah regime in Tehran.

A new strategy in the region covering Pakistan and Iran is indeed needed to achieve advances in defeating the jihadis and in empowering the democracy forces in Afghanistan.

If the Bush administration was too slow in reaching that conclusion, then one would expect the Obama foreign policy team to bridge the gap and quickly arrive at a successful next stage.

But the “regional” proposition unveiled by the Washington Post defies logic, instead of consolidating it.

For I wonder on what grounds the Iranian regime would shift from a virulent anti-U.S. attitude to a favorable team player in stabilizing Afghanistan? Even the gurus of classical realism would wonder.

If a deal is possible with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it cannot be on establishing a democratic government in Kabul. It simply doesn’t add up knowing the essence of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its oppressive nature.

Therefore, and before the new administration even begins to sell the idea, it is important for all to realize that any Afghan deal cut with Iran must assume that the next regime in Kabul will satisfy the agenda in Tehran: meaning non-democratic. This is the first hurdle.

Amazingly, the second proposition simultaneously would invite the Taliban (postulating that a milder wing indeed exists) to share power in the country as a way to end the conflict. More problems emerge here: first, if the “good” Taliban are brought to the deal (assuming this is even feasible), what happens with the “bad” Taliban? Will the latter just “go away” or will there be a fight between the “good and the bad” factions? And how can the new strategy end the new Afghan war and will we come to the rescue of the nice jihadists against the ugly ones? Obviously, it doesn’t add up either.

Second, assuming there would be a partial re-Talibanization of Afghanistan, how could this co-exist with the Iranians? The same Washington Post article quoted the same advisers, underscoring that “The Iranians don’t want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than we do.”

How can the architects reconcile bringing in the Iranians for help and, at the same time, inviting the “Sunni extremists” to be sitting in Kabul? This construct doesn’t fly on mere logic.

As I wondered in an interview with Fox News the same day, are the new foreign policy planners talking about changing the strategy or changing the enemy?

The most logical ally against most of the Taliban should be the democratically-elected government in Pakistan, which is already waging a campaign against al-Qaida and its Taliban allies. Why would Washington replace this potential ally (regardless of all mishaps) with two foes: the non-democratic regime of Iran and a faction of the totalitarian Taliban?

In this dizzying maze a la 1990s, one begins to wonder if we are flipping the enemy into an ally, and vice versa, merely so that the slogan of “change” is then materialized. My feeling is that post electoral political pressures are so intense that it may produce a recipe for greater confusion and even disaster.

The problem is not the idea of “talking” to any of the players, including the current foes; engaging in contacts is always an option and has always been practiced. The problem is the perception by the new U.S. officials (and even current ones) that we can simply and naively “create” the conditions that we wish, regardless of the intentions of the other side. When reading these suggestions, one concludes that they were conceived on paper as unilateral designs lacking any strategic understanding of the enemy.

Take two examples as a starter: first, if you want to engage the so-called “acceptable” Taliban into a national unity government in Kabul (which is not an impossible idea theoretically), did you incorporate what their minimal demands are? And can your analysis of the jihadis’ long-term strategy produce a projection over four to six years of a return of these jihadis to power? I don’t think so.

Second, if you wish to enlist Iran as a partner in Afghanistan, will you be able to continue with the sanctions over its nuclear program? Obviously not. Thus the bottom line is that the price for befriending Tehran in Kabul is to allow it to reach its nuclear military ambitions. If it is otherwise, the upcoming foreign policy team has a lot of explaining to do.

Another interesting statement made by an adviser, according to the Washington Post, was that “the incoming administration intends to remind Americans how the fight “against Islamist extremists” began – on Sept. 11, 2001, before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars – and to underscore that al-Qaida remains the nation’s highest priority. “This is our enemy,” one adviser said of Bin Laden, “and he should be our principal target.”

Although as a reader I am not sure if DeYoung was discussing the new strategies in the war with the same “source,” the latter, stronger sentence is of great value for future inquiries. For if indeed the incoming administration intends to remind U.S. citizens that the fight is “against Islamist extremists,” then this would be a good bridge to the Bush administration’s bold rhetoric, which ended in 2006.

If the Obama administration “change” in strategy is to redefine the confrontation in the precise manner the adviser did, then we will be lucky. If that is the case, then we would hope and expect the new administration to repel the irresponsible “lexicon” disseminated by bureaucrats within the Bush administration and instead issue a strong document identifying the threat as stated in the Washington Post article, explaining once and for all the ideology of bin Laden so that indeed we can understand “our principal target.”

These early remarks are aimed at helping the Obama administration from its inception to clearly strategize and target so that the next four, and maybe eight years, will be a leap forward in protecting this country and in defending democracy worldwide.

This is only a glimpse of conversations to come about America’s national security and the hope to see a real qualitative change for the best.

(*) – Dr. Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad”.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘MIDDLE EAST TIMES’ (Egypt)

Posted in AL QAEDA, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MIDDLE EAST, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

LOCUSTS THREATEN AUSTRALIA HARVEST

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Last Modified: 18 Nov 2008

Source: ITN

A SWARM OF LOCUSTS IN MADAGASCAR - AFRICA

Swarms of locusts are sweeping across rural areas in the Australian state of New South Wales a many farmers prepare to harvest their crops.

Officials said a low-density swarm 6km long and 170m wide could be seen near Condobolin. Other swarms have been spotted near Wagga, Gundagai and Narrandera.

Locusts feed mainly on green vegetation. In some areas, it is the first precious crop in several years, after many seasons of drought.

NSW primary industries minister Ian MacDonald said nine special locust-busting aircraft were on standby to treat the swarms if they grew larger or thicker.

“Reports of swarm activity coming in to us from a number of areas of the state, particularly in the south and in the central west,” said Mr McDonald

“A couple of these swarms have reached significant size, one of which is JUVENILE LOCUSTSabout six kilometres long and about 170 metres deep.”

He continued: “This is quite a significant swarm. The government, in response, placed on standby nine aircraft ready to hit the swarms so that they don’t become a major problem in parts of the state.

“The problem is that at this time, locusts seek out green fodder and so anything growing at this point of time would be attacked fairly severely by locusts.”

© Independent Television News Limited 2008. All rights reserved.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘CHANNEL4’ (UK)

Posted in AGRICULTURAL PLAGUES, AGRICULTURE, AUSTRALIA, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, INTERNATIONAL | Leave a Comment »

DISINVESTMENT FROM WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS GAINS MOMENTUM (Israel)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Published: November 18, 2008

by Cherrie Heywood (Middle East Times)

JERUSALEM – In an endeavor to breathe some life back into the ILLEGAL ISRAELI SETTLEMENTSmoribund Israeli-Palestinian conflict the British government is taking steps to encourage disinvestment from illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank by labeling all produce manufactured and produced by settlers.

Previously all items imported into the United Kingdom simply stated that they were made in Israel, making it impossible for those who support a boycott of settler produce from being able to distinguish between Israeli produce from within Israel’s internationally recognized and legal borders of 1967 and goods produced in the settlements.

This step by the British follows in the wake of Barkan Wineries, a Dutch company’s decision to relocate from the industrial zone in the Barkan settlement in the northern West Bank to Kibbutz Hulda within the green line.

Barkan had been under pressure from both the Dutch government, which condemns Israel’s settlement policy on Palestinian land, and the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom which initiated a boycott against Barkan wines.

However, British Secretary of State David Miliband attempted to downplay the re-labeling move when he visited Israel last week during a two-day visit and met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Livni told Miliband that the United Kingdom was taking “an exaggerated stance in its initiative to label produce imported from the West Bank.”

Miliband denied that the labeling of settlement produce amounted to a boycott and explained it was “merely an attempt to enforce previous trade agreements between the two countries.”

However, Miliband was under a certain amount of pressure during his visit to express strong opposition to settlement in the West Bank and to press European partners for tighter control of imports to the European Union from the settlements.

Some of these imports are admitted at European ports as the produce of Israel and therefore enjoy tariff benefits under an Israel-EU treaty, British officials said.

Anonymous European diplomats added that a fresh economic offensive on the West Bank settlements had not yet been officially approved.

But they qualified that Miliband had been trying to engage support from Brussels for a tougher approach as they believe the settlements are the core issue in regard to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Proser also held a meeting with Miliband and rejected the latter’s argument.

Proser added that the idea to label the products was part of Downing Street’s effort to influence Israeli policy toward the settlements and any other explanation was just an excuse.

The angry Israelis further asserted that London is interested in increasing its involvement in Middle East talks.

This is based on the belief that once U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office they will be able to nudge forward a new peace initiative in conjunction with the White House.

Apart from the political considerations of Israeli settlements hindering a successful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights organizations have also expressed concern over the ill-treatment of Palestinian workers on the settlements.

In August, the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, the international watchdog organization, asked three Israeli companies to respond to a report by an Israeli non-governmental organization that protested the treatment of Palestinian workers at West Bank settlement industrial parks.

Kav LaOved, which is concerned with the rights of migrant and Palestinian workers employed in Israel and the settlements, reported on the rising number of claims by Palestinian workers employed in West Bank settlements following an October 2007 Israeli high court ruling that the country’s labor laws applied in the settlements.

According to Kav LaOved’s report, Palestinian workers who come from all over the West Bank have to work under poor health and safety conditions.

To evade liability, work permits are issued under the name of a different employer, and workers employed through a Palestinian contractor are paid less.

During Miliband’s talks, which were described as tough by Israeli officials, the two countries also expressed differences on talks with Syria.

But of prime importance to Tel Aviv was the fear that Israeli defense officials could face indictment for war crimes if they visit Britain.

To this end British Ambassador Tom Phillips was summoned by the Israeli Foreign Ministry last Thursday where he was informed of Israel’s “disappointment” over the British government’s failure to change legislation regarding the apprehension of war criminals.

This legislation enables Britain to arrest alleged war criminals for crimes committed overseas.

Several former Israeli Defense Forces generals, including former Chief of Staff and current Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, have deliberately avoided traveling to the United Kingdom out of fear of being arrested on arrival.

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Posted in BANKING SYSTEMS, CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, ENGLAND, FOREIGN POLICIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISRAEL, PALESTINE, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, UNITED KINGDOM | Leave a Comment »

INFLATION DROPS AGAIN IN OCTOBER (Ghana)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Volume: 19 Edition No: 33 Date: Monday, November 17, 2008

by Stephen Odoi-Larbi

The annual inflation rate fell to 17.30 per cent in October down from GHANAIAN17.89 percent a month earlier, Dr. Grace Bediako, Government Statistician, said on Friday. This is the fourth consecutive monthly drop, since inflation went up to a high of 18.41 per cent in June.

The month-to-month change, which is the change in the CPI from previous month to the current month, recorded a rate of -0.67 per cent in October.

The main reason for the fall was good harvest and falling prices of food items, mostly in the rural areas. Dr. Bediako said the level of inflation in 2008 continued to be higher for the non-food group than the food group and higher in the rural areas than the urban areas.

The contribution of the non-food and food groups in October stood at 10.43 and 6.87 percentage points respectively. In the non-food group, the contributions of hotels, cafés and restaurants, clothing and footwear, and housing utilities sub-groups were highest in price change, contributing more than one percentage point to the annual rate of inflation.

Fish, bread and cereals sub-groups continued to contribute the largest to price change in the food group.

Inflation rates recorded in the regions range from 24.18 per cent in the Northern Region, to 13.22 per cent in Ashanti. Six regions recorded inflation rates above the national rate of 17.30 points.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE GHANAIAN CHRONICLE’

Posted in ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, GHANA, INFLATION, INTERNATIONAL | Leave a Comment »

AUTO-BLUES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008 at 10:40 am

I want to begin with this quote I pulled from Newyorktimes … quoting ROBERT JOHNSONfrom a long time ago.

So how did the famous 1953 quotation from the former General Motors president Charles E. Wilson — that what was good for our country was good for G.M., and vice versa — become a dated notion to so many people?

How true is that… I often do today’s companies abuse this government and walk on it’s people. Instead of helping the economy, so many giants have fallen and as they topple they wish to be propped up by the government… and in all seriousness… in turn propped up by us, the American people.

Now onto the next reasoning behind my theory in American Auto-Maker failing.

3. Tying up the new ways of fuel in lawsuits and legal battle’.

Both fuel makers and car manufactures were trying to tie up the development of alternative non-”gas” car types and energies. Other’s just refuse to take part. Such as Exxon… (link provided)

Last year, Exxon, which is based in Irving, Texas, celebrated its 125th anniversary, marking a straight line that connects it to John Rockefeller’s original Standard Oil Trust before the government broke up the enterprise. While other oil companies try to paint themselves greener, Exxon’s executives believe their venerable model has been battle-tested. The company’s mantra is unwavering: brutal honesty about the need for oil and gas to power economies for decades to come.

And to be honest, brutal prices are also well within many of these fuels companies and car companies mantras. Another great point is some of the great in’s and outs of legal/political things some of the automakers delve into… lobbying.

So far this year, G.M. has spent $10 million on lobbying, out of $95 million in the past 10 years,placing it at No. 16 on the site’s “top spenders” list.

Ford, which ranks No. 19 on the list, has spent $5.7 million this year, out of $80.6 million the last decade.

And the next great fail of both gas/car companies are their will to not change. The strangle hold on oil and the strict standard for car makers all are there to drive out competition and keep prices high. Although this is mainly targeted at auto makers… fuel and the automobile go hand in hand… and often think the same.

(Link)

Oil is not safe, and oil companies do not follow proper precautions. One of our worst ecological disasters ever, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, recently had its punitive damages reduced from what once totaled $5 billion to $500 million. And such pandering to an industry that can afford to pay for the damage they have done, even over a twenty-year span, if not within a year, should have to do so, as this would deter future careless hiring practices and other precautions not taken, both of which contributed to this disaster. And don’t forget Grist’s note, above, of the hundreds of instances of damage from hurricanes (which come by every year, by the way). The oil industry is more confident that they can get off easily when they make mistakes, and are therefore less likely to take necessary precautions.

Both industries see the government as a scape goat. The car makers of America probably feel as though they can just receive help and get off easy when it comes to repaying its debt of following its protocols. As

Barack Obama has said the auto industry should get assistance, “I think that it can’t be a blank check,” he said Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

Maybe, some of this money should have been spent in developing… or investing… or research? Maybe? The same companies that tried to lock up the production and research of Hydrogen fueled cars, by stating that people would be unsafe… that in effect they would be driving hydrogen bombs. Long story short.. the ruling went against them after many years stating that… in order to have a Hydrogen bomb you need uranium… of which a Hydrogen cars don’t have.

In any even, these companies should spend less money and time on stopping new technology and research and more time figuring out a way to secure a future. A lot of problems could be solved from these companies if less time was spent tying up other companies and events and focus on a good business model… one that focuses less others and more on the industry itself.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘A SILENT RAGE’ (EUA)

Posted in AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FUELS, GASOLINE, HYDROGEN - FUEL CELLS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, NUCLEAR ENERGY, PETROL, RECESSION, REFINERIES - PETROL/BIOFUELS, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE WORK MARKET, USA | Leave a Comment »

HAY QUE ROMPER CON EL MODELO NEOLIBERAL Y EL SISTEMA CAPITALISTA – Sentenció Evo Morales al intervenir ante Naciones Unidas

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

17/11/2008

NACIONES UNIDAS, 17 de noviembre. – El presidente boliviano, Evo Morales, planteó este lunes romper EVO MORALES AT THE UNcon el neoliberalismo y el sistema capitalista, además de reformular las normas de la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC) para salir de la crisis financiera mundial, informó ABI.

“Para salir de la crisis hay que romper con el modelo neoliberal y el sistema capitalista”, afirmó el mandatario ante el pleno de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas.

En Bolivia, dijo, se ha comenzado a cambiar la política neoliberal dignificando al Estado y resolviendo los problemas sociales, lo que ha permitido sobrellevar los efectos de la crisis financiera global.

“El comercio injusto implementado por algunos organismos internacionales no es la solución para mi país”, señaló Morales, quien apuntó, además, que para salir de la crisis financiera hay que cambiar las reglas de la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC).

El sistema financiero mundial debe ser reestructurado por los 192 países que forman las Naciones Unidas y no solo por los 20 más desarrollados, declaró en referencia a la Cumbre del G-20 celebrada hace poco en Washington.

De igual forma, se debe reestructurar el Banco Mundial (BM) y el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI), señaló Evo.

Criticó que en menos de 15 días los países que integran el G-20 hubieran otorgado 30 veces más dinero a los bancos del Wall Street que a los recursos que se destinan para conseguir los Objetivos del Milenio, entre ellos acabar con la pobreza.

Según EFE, durante su intervención, el Jefe de Estado también agradeció a la comunidad internacional el apoyo a su gestión en la crisis política que vivió Bolivia recientemente.

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Posted in BOLIVIA, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, G20, IMF, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, THE UNITED NATIONS, WORLD BANK, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION | Leave a Comment »

EFECTOS DE LA CRISIS FINANCIERA – Japón entró ya en recesión económica

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

17/11/2008

TOKIO, 17 de noviembre.— Considerada como la segunda economía mundial más fuerte, Japón entró Japón entró ya en recesión económica - noviembre de 2008hoy oficialmente en recesión, una semana después de que los 15 países de la Eurozona entraran por igual camino, influenciados por la crisis financiera de Estados Unidos.

Un comunicado de prensa del Ministerio de Finanzas indica que la economía nacional se contrajo, por segunda ocasión, en un 0,1% en el tercer trimestre, señala PL.

“Esta no será una recesión corta o indolora”, advirtió Noriko Hama, economista y profesor de la universidad Doshisha.

Con las economías de Francia y Gran Bretaña también en rápida desaceleración, el presidente de la Comisión Europea, José Manuel Durao Barroso, llamó a adoptar un plan de estímulo fiscal a nivel europeo.

Los inversionistas de Asia y Europa no se mostraban muy impresionados con la nueva ola de promesas efectuada el sábado por los líderes del grupo de países más industrializados y los emergentes para unir fuerzas a fin de estimular el crecimiento y reformar la arquitectura financiera mundial.

Entretanto, Reuters reporta desde Londres que las acciones europeas cayeron hoy, entre otros factores, por los crecientes temores a una recesión, los planes del banco Citigroup de eliminar 50 000 empleos y un retroceso de los precios de los metales.

Al mismo tiempo se dio a conocer que la zona euro acumuló un déficit comercial, en septiembre, de 5 600 millones de euros, frente al superávit de 2 900 millones en igual periodo del 2007, difundió la Eurostat.

Sin embargo, acota PL, economistas encuestados esperaban un desbalance de 7 300 millones de dólares para el noveno mes del 2008, muy por encima de lo registrado.

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Posted in ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, INTERNATIONAL, JAPAN, RECESSION, THE EUROPEAN UNION, YEN (Japan) | Leave a Comment »

ZAIBATSU GLOBALIZATION ‘VOODOO ECONOMICS’ BOWING OUT

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

ERLE FRAYNE ARGONZA Y DELAGO by Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

Let me share to you at this moment some notes regarding the ‘globalization’ experiment and the flawed policies that sustained it. There has been much ballyhoo about the global economy’s integration, over the last three (3) decades, as having been carved out supposedly by the Anglo-Saxon policy architects, using Thatcher & Reagan as the face for the ‘neo-liberal’ policy regime they installed.

Little do peoples across the globe, including experts who are so mired in their own parochial perspectives, know that the liberalization of country economies has a great deal to do with the Zaibatsu offensive. The West should better accept the facts: that their technocrats and policy shapers have run out of fresh ideas since the 1970s onwards (i.e. mentally bankrupt), a gap that they filled up by looking up to Japan and the NICs (newly industrializing countries) for copycat purposes.

Reaganomics, as neo-liberal policies of ‘privatization’ was dubbed (Thatcher of the UK preceded Reagan by a year), is as voodoo as one can get, seductive as any enchanting mantra-resonating principle can be, and was indeed potent in erasing the vestiges of the Regulated Economics doctrines that preceded the era. In the emerging markets, they were dubbed as ‘structural adjustment policies’ or SAPs, were imposed by the IMF-World Bank Group on debtor nations, and can be summed up as follows:

· Core principles: Privatization, Liberalization, Deregulation

· Subsidiary Principles: Tax reforms, trade liberalization, free floating exchange rates, diminished state subsidies for welfare, increased utility prices (revenue generation)

· Governance Principle: Decentralization (local government autonomy)

Such policy reform measures, as far as developing countries or DCs were concerned, came in as very harsh, cruel ‘austerity measures’ imposed by the IMF. We citizens from the ‘margins’ can never forget these measures, the pauperization that they effected, the dislocation of marginal producers, the decline of health services and rise of morbidity rates, and so on. In the Philippines, our very own capital goods industries were either delayed or un-implementable (such as integrated steel), as the money allocated for their purposes simply dried as dictated by the World Bank.

But there’s another set of policy architecture that wasn’t Anglo-Saxon, and didn’t receive their inspiration from the classicists (Smith, Ricardo) and the monetarists (Friedman, Hayek). This set of liberalization policies came from Zaibatsu country, and were crafted by Japanese technocrats. Not only policies, but also institutions were addressed by them, giving rise to the globalized economy that we have today.

Chief among those technocrats was Kenichi Ohmae, who in the 1980s was a think-tank executive. Further down the line were many other technocrats, who were organically linked to the Zaibatsus (landlord-industrialist-financier oligarchs), taking up cudgels for Ohmae.

Globalization, as one better realize, was never meant as any ‘win/win’ formula for nation-states in the arena of international trade as the liberal thinkers came to defend it later. It was outright a strategy to pre-position Zaibatsu corporate interests outside of Japan, notably the U.S. and European markets.

At that time of conceptualization, Zaibatsus have already efficaciously penetrated the Asian markets, and had leveraged their investments’ entry via aid and technical knowledge diffusion (including sponsoring Developing Country scholars in Japanese universities & special institutes). The old doctrine of ‘Asia Co-prosperity sphere’ was finally won, without firing a shot this time (unlike Imperial Japan era expansionism).

In the 1980s, the clamor for mooring investments and trade in the Western markets became ever stronger. The offensive tactic adapted was rather two-pronged, which made the new voodoo mantra even more potent:

· On the micro-level, permeate other markets with new concepts such as ‘Theory Z’ (decentralized authority, see W. Ouichi), total quality management or TQM, new tools for strategic planning, mergers and de-mergers. Till these days, the tools are considered sacrosanct in all sectors of society, including the Catholic Church that now uses ‘bottom-up’ planning added to strategic planning (my observations done in 2001-02 in a California diocese).

· On the macro-level, blend the Reagan-Thatcher ‘structural adjustments’ with the ‘globalization’ doctrine. The Zaibatsu technocrats fanned out across the globe, some of whom were positioned inside international bodies, and sweetened liberalization via a supposedly ‘win/win’ growth strategy for participating countries. This brilliant blending, which Western thinkers didn’t perceive at all as any subtle tactic by a predatory class (Zaibatsu), soon caught up fire and became buzz word for nigh three decades.

Before long, the Japan Inc. was being bandied across the globe as worth any country’s emulation. Southeast Asia and Korea went for it. Even the former presidents of the USA admired the Japanese Inc. doctrine of renewed private initiatives and shift from macro- to micro-economics as stabilization and growth measure. Bill Clinton of the USA spoke so fondly of ‘globalization’ like some captive fan of an economic icon, and moved to negotiate the NAFTA.

Little do unsuspecting, gullible peoples across the planet, more so the policy experts of the West, realize that the Japanese voodoo economics was largely intended to permit Zaibatsu investments to breed and morph inside their economies. Using merger and buy-in tactics, the Zaibatsu agents made it appear that their sponsors came in for benign purposes or so. If there is any group in the world today that is enjoying its last laugh, it is the Japanese militarists of the past, who finally saw the success of their nation’s offensives and the decline of the West via ‘organized chaos’.

Around 1994, the magic of the Japan Inc. began to cramble. Recession came, and before long many banks and investment houses were catching fire. That was the origin of the bankrupt and immoral Bush-Paulson ‘bailout’, which began with the ‘crisis management’ tactic in Japan to save ailing banks and financial institutions. Eventually, Zaibatsu technocrats were forced to revive the Western tool of ‘interest rates’ intervention, to the extent of bringing down interest rates to zero percent and sustaining it there for many years.

There also came that moment, in the late 1990s through 2006, when Zaibatsu financiers suddenly were so awash with funds (liquidities), at a time when Western economies reached low growths. The ‘yen initiative’ package was therefore conceptualized as another last-ditch voodoo tactic, which was implemented by loaning out large funds at zero or low interest, which Western financiers than re-loaned at profitable interest rates. Many such funds reached the USA& EU realty subprime mortgage markets, to recall. Again, note the seemingly benign nature of the financial gesture.

Just as when the realty markets were beginning to sneeze in America, the last voodoo measure was pulled out. The ‘crisis management’ was already folded up earlier, as Japan’s economic growth was propelled up anew by the Asian markets notably China’s. Just as when USA & EU needed the Zaibatsu loans very badly, and ditto for portfolio investments, they were pulled out, thus ensuring the crash of both economies.

Japananese voodoo economics is now bowing out, as the compass of policy initiatives at present is pointing to the reconstruction of macro-economic, New Deal type measures intended to attack problems both on short-term (bail out on productive sectors) and long-term basis (induce physical economy rather than predatory finance). But the withdrawal of the voodoo regime is not being done without witnessing its catastrophic results.

That’s surely tragic for the West or North. I wonder how Zaibatsus & technocrats perceive peoples outside their borders: whether they regard the latter as human beings worth co-partnering with, or as hungry lizards that must subsist on crumbs of investments & finance from Japan that have been buttressed by enormous tons of gold acquired through production and plunder of occupied lands, across the 2,000 years of Japan’s existence from kingdom to nation.

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. But if the Zaibatsus are receiving flaks from outside their borders, it wouldn’t be a surprise. There are no more borders for Zaibatsus by the way, just an entire planet with seamless web, cocooned in all corners by their corporate money.

[Writ 14 November 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

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Posted in BANKING SYSTEMS, COMMERCE, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FOREIGN POLICIES, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, JAPAN, MACROECONOMY, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS | Leave a Comment »

ANALISTAS NÃO ESPERAM MAIS AUMENTO DE JUROS NESTE ANO (Brasil)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

17/11/2008

Analistas de mercado aumentaram para 13,31% a projeção da taxa básica de juros ao final de 2009. JUROS 'BÁSICOS'Segundo o boletim Focus, publicação semanal elaborada pelo Banco Central com base em projeções de analistas de mercado sobre os principais indicadores da economia, a estimativa anterior era de 13,25%.

Para este ano, no entanto, os analistas não esperam por mais aumento dos juros básicos. Atualmente a Selic está em 13,75%. A última reunião deste ano do Comitê de Política Monetária (Copom) que define a Selic, será em dezembro.

Sobre o crescimento da economia (Produto Interno Bruto – PIB), os analistas mantiveram a projeção para este ano de 5,23% e de 3% em 2009.

Para o crescimento da produção industrial neste ano, os analistas aumentaram a expectativa de 5,77% para 5,8%. Em 2009, eles esperam crescimento de 3,16%, contra 3,7% da estimativa anterior.

Para este ano, os analistas projetam a dívida líquida do setor público em 39,04% do PIB, ante a expectativa anterior de 39,5%. Para 2009, a estimativa caiu de 38,5% para 38%. Quanto menor a relação entre dívida e PIB, maior é a confiança do investidor na capacidade do Brasil de honrar seus compromissos.

Os analistas mantiveram a projeção de déficit de US$ 30 bilhões no saldo das transações correntes (todas as operações do Brasil com o exterior) em 2008 e de US$ 31,65 bilhões no próximo ano.

Quanto ao superávit comercial (saldo positivo das exportações menos as importações), a estimativa para 2008 foi ajustada de US$ 23,82 bilhões para US$ 23,78 bilhões. Para 2009, subiu de US$ 13,03 bilhões para US$ 13,32 bilhões. A projeção para o investimento estrangeiro direto(dinheiro que entra na parte produtiva da economia, a chamada economia real, gerando emprego e renda) em 2008 foi mantida em US$ 35 bilhões e reduzida de US$ 26 bilhões para US$ 25 bilhões, em 2009.

Para o valor do dólar no final deste ano, os analistas aumentaram a projeção de R$ 2,05 para R$ 2,10. Ao final de 2009, a estimativa do câmbio passou de R$ 2,01 R$ 2,10.

Fonte: Agência Estado

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EXXON PLACES ITS BETS ON FOSSIL FUELS DESPITE UNCERTAIN TIMES – In terms of GDP, Exxon would rank between Austria and Greece as the 26th largest economy in the world. Since 2004, the company has made profits of US$180 billion

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Sunday, Nov 16, 2008, Page 12

by Jad Mouawad

NY Times News Service, New York

Six years of relentlessly rising prices have showered the oil industry with record profits even as EXXON JIMAwhipsawing energy costs have left many Americans alternately furious and baffled.

Now that the roller coaster ride appears to be screeching to a halt, one corporate giant remains confident it can weather the slowdown and uncertainty better than its rivals.

“It’s not that we like lower prices, but our competitive advantage is more obvious to people in a low-price environment,” said Rex Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest, mightiest oil company. “But in a high-price environment, our competitive advantage has been quite evident as well.”

However undaunted Exxon feels, it’s still facing more complicated scenarios than mere price shifts. It’s straining to adjust to a host of potentially seismic issues that raise pointed questions about its long-ExxonMobil’s liquefied natural gas plant RasGas, in Qatar, is pictured in this undated photo. PHOTO - NY TIMES NEWS SERVICEterm strategy. Oil reserves are harder to find, resource-rich governments have become more assertive, and global warming concerns have spurred forceful calls to action on environmental matters.

Moreover, with the election of Barack Obama, a new chapter is about to open for the country’s energy policy. Obama says he wants to move away from oil dependence, and his policies are likely to emphasize conservation, alternative energy sources and new limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

FUTURE

The question for Exxon, which Obama repeatedly singled out as an exemplar of corporate greed during the presidential campaign, is whether the model that has served the company so well for so long will keep it competitive — or whether it will still be producing hydrocarbons long after the world has moved THE EXXON-VALDEZ OIL SPILL away from dirty fuels.

Last year, Exxon, which is based in Irving, Texas, celebrated its 125th anniversary, marking a straight line that connects it to John Rockefeller’s original Standard Oil Trust before the government broke up the enterprise. While other oil companies try to paint themselves greener, Exxon’s executives believe their venerable model has been battle-tested. The company’s mantra is unwavering: brutal honesty about the need for oil and gas to power economies for decades to come.

“Over the years, there have been many predictions that our industry was in its twilight years, only to be proven wrong,” says Tillerson. “As Mark Twain said, the news of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.”

From a purely financial standpoint, there’s no doubt that Exxon’s business strategy has paid off. Despite the broader economic turmoil, Exxon is worth about US$375 billion — more than General Electric, Bank of America and Google combined — making it the world’s largest corporation. EXXON CHART - COMPANY PROFIT GLOBAL WARMING

Its balance sheet is pristine and its credit rating is better than that of most governments. If Exxon’s revenue were stacked against the world’s GDPs, it would rank between Austria and Greece as the 26th-largest economy. As oil prices peaked this summer, the company once again set a record as the most profitable American corporation, earning US$14.8 billion in the third quarter. Since 2004 alone, the company has rung up profits of about US$180 billion.

Throughout its various incarnations — the Standard Oil Trust, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Exxon Corp and now Exxon Mobil — the company has been an ambiguous fascination for many Americans. It is an enduring icon, as lasting as Coca-Cola or General Electric, but also a perennial corporate villain, one that reminds the country of its dependence on hydrocarbons.

Rivals acknowledge its expertise around an oil field, even as they bristle at what they call arrogance. Exxon’s own executives brag that their company outperforms its peers by sticking to their playbook.

“Exxon is a very professional company,” says Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of a leading EXXON - GAS STATIONcompetitor, Royal Dutch Shell.

Others say they respect the company’s clarity of vision.

“People know the rules when they work with Exxon,” said a top oil executive who asked not to be identified in order not to jeopardize his company’s relationship with Exxon. “Exxon can pick its battles. It’s a pretty good strategy to have if people know that you will fight to the bitter end.”

Examples of such grit abound. After a dispute with the Venezuelan government, during which Exxon persuaded a British court to briefly freeze US$12 billion in government assets to fight what it considered an expropriation, the country’s oil minister accused the company of “legal terrorism.”

Whatever its critics might say about the company’s hard-headedness, it has paid off in Exxon’s bottom EXXON - REFINERYline. Last year, Exxon’s profit per barrel was US$17, exceeding BP’s US$12 a barrel, Shell’s US$14 and Chevron’s US$16, said Neil McMahon, a Bernstein Research analyst.

No one is apologetic at Exxon about what it takes to get those results, especially Tillerson.

“The business model is based on a disciplined and rigorous approach to dealing with scientific data and facts,” he says. “What we do is largely invisible to the public. They see the nozzle at the pump, and that’s about it. They don’t see the enormous level of risk that is managed very well to get that gallon of gas.”

Exxon has battled powerful forces in recent years, locking horns with governments and multinational rivals from Africa to Central Asia, from Eastern Europe to South America. But last spring, the challenge struck closer to home — at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas.

CHALLENGES

As oil prices zoomed above US$100 a barrel, a group of investors tried to force Exxon to lay out a new strategy for developing alternative fuels and addressing global warming. While the challenge was not COLLECTING PROFITS WITH A VACUUN CLEANERunprecedented — raucous shareholder meetings have been a staple for years — the dissent was led by a symbolic, if slightly quixotic, constituency: descendants of Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil in 1882.

“Exxon Mobil needs to reconnect with the forward-looking and entrepreneurial vision of my great-grandfather,” said Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, a Tufts University economist, speaking for the family. The company, she added at the time, was focused “on a narrow path that ignores the rapidly shifting energy landscape around the world.”

Exxon’s top managers easily brushed off the Rockefeller revolt, as they have so many obstacles over the years. Even so, Exxon and the other oil giants are facing a stark new landscape.

High prices have meant stratospheric profits, of course, but they have also led to more restrictions on access to oil fields around the world, making it harder for companies to increase their production and replace reserves.

“The largest oil companies are under tremendous pressure,” said Fadel Gheit, a veteran oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Co, who worked for Mobil Corp before moving to Wall Street.

In the 1960s, the so-called Seven Sisters oil companies, including Exxon and Mobil, controlled most of ACCORDING TO THE GREENPEACE, 'EXXON IS A FOSSIL'the world’s oil reserves. Today, state-owned companies, like Saudi Aramco, hold the vast majority of these reserves, while other resource holders like Russia and Venezuela have become increasingly assertive about limiting access to their reserves.

“The problem is very real,” said Henry Lee, a lecturer in energy policy at Harvard University. “The oil majors are looking at a very different world than 20 years ago. That has big implications for the future of these companies. They all know it and they are all trying to figure out where they are going to be in 10 and 20 years.”

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Posted in COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, FUELS, GASOLINE, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, PETROL, REFINERIES - PETROL/BIOFUELS, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, USA | 2 Comments »

BRAZIL’S ROBUST ECONOMY PROPELS QUEST TO BE GLOBAL PLAYER

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Published: Nov 11, 2008 05:54 PM Modified: Nov 11, 2008 05:54 PM

by Tyler Bridges, McClatchy Newspapers

BRASILIA, Brazil – For years, critics said that Brazil was long on potential and short on performance. EXAMINING BRAZIL'S EXTERNAL DEBTNot anymore. This massive country has become one of the world’s biggest democracies and an economic powerhouse.

Now Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants his nation to have a bigger role in world affairs. He’ll press his case when leaders from the major industrial and developing nations convene Saturday at the G-20 summit in Washington.

Before the meeting, Lula has called on wealthier nations to overhaul the global finance system and give a bigger say to developing countries such as Brazil.

“We need new, more inclusive governance, and Brazil is ready to face up to its responsibilities,” Lula said last Saturday at a meeting of finance ministers and central bank presidents in Sao Paulo. “It is time for a pact between governments to build a new financial architecture for the world.”

In the short term, Brazil wants the smaller G-7 group of industrialized countries to expand to include Brazil and other developing countries, said Amaury de Souza, a political analyst in Rio de Janeiro.

“We want a permanent G-14,” de Souza said, saying that Russia, China, Mexico and India should be among the additions.

Brazil also wants developing nations to have a greater voice at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations.

“Global power structures were frozen in the aftermath of World War II,” de Souza added. “Excessive latitude of action was given to European countries.”

Only a few years ago, Brazil’s president wouldn’t have dared to demand a greater role. Hyperinflation, a roller-coaster economy and political instability plagued Brazil in the 1990s.

The country’s stock market plummeted after Lula was elected in 2002. Investors feared the longtime leftist leader, a former auto factory worker who hadn’t graduated from high school.

However, Lula has promoted business investment while putting more money into the hands of the poor. The economy has boomed for three years, propelling millions of Brazilians into the middle class.

With the world’s 10th biggest economy, Brazil has surpassed the United States as the biggest producer of iron ore and coffee. It’s become the world’s biggest exporter of beef, poultry, biofuels and orange juice concentrate, and is rapidly gaining in soybeans, corn and pork.

Brazil also has accumulated $200 billion in foreign reserves, almost as much as the rest of Latin America combined. That money will help cushion the global meltdown

Now, Brazil wants to be recognized for its fiscal track record and to avoid the risks that come with a global economic crisis.

“Brazil has new standing in the world,” said Rubens Barbosa, a private consultant in Brazil who’s served as the ambassador to the United States. “We think we can contribute more.”

Quietly, Brazil already has become the most powerful country in Latin America.

Brazilian companies are expanding Caracas’ subway system, constructing a massive hydroelectric dam in Ecuador and building a highway in Peru that will give Brazilian companies better access to Peru’s ports.

Brazil also has been flexing its diplomatic muscles throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It leads the main United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, where it has 1,200 soldiers.

Without fanfare, Lula has undercut the ambitions of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in South America, providing an important counterweight in the eyes of U.S. policymakers.

Lula has undermined Chavez’s dreams of building a 5,000-mile gas pipeline connecting Venezuela and Brazil and has stymied Chavez’s plan for the Bank of the South, meant to provide an alternative to the World Bank.

Now Brazil wants a reward for all its efforts.

“Brazilians view the current economic crisis as something of an opportunity,” said Jeffrey Cason, a political science professor and Brazil expert at Middlebury College in Vermont. “They think they can increase the interest of developed nations in giving them a seat at the table and place Brazil in a leadership position on behalf of poor countries.”

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© 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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