- Egypt’s New Leader Is Unfit to Rule
- Authoritarianism Pushes Back
- Pakatan tubuh j/kuasa belanjawan 2014
- M’SIA WILL BE HIT: Another Asian Financial Crisis may be brewing, this time from India
- [PROGRAM] PERAK — Sambutan Hari Raya Eidul Fitri Bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Perak
Posted: 22 Aug 2013 02:57 AM PDT
Al-Sisi’s recent decisionmaking suggests a character that is deeply flawed, rash and dangerous
Yesterday, Egypt's ruling authorities made two symbolic yet important decisions. The first is that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, detained since the February 2011 coup that toppled him from power, is to be freed. The second is that the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, is heading in the other direction. He's going to jail, where he'll join another former President, Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first elected Commander in Chief who was deposed last month by Defense Minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the man who now calls the shots in Cairo.
Perhaps al-Sisi believes he is following Machiavelli's advice to rulers, that people must either be caressed or crushed. However, showing leniency to Mubarak and baring his teeth at the Brotherhood, along with other decisions al-Sisi has taken over the past 40 days, give us an insight into the nature of the man and suggest a character deeply flawed, rash and dangerous.
We don't have many biographical details about al-Sisi. The 58-year-old general was born and raised in Cairo. He received his commission in 1977, so he fought in none of Egypt's wars. He trained in the U.K. in 1992, served as military attaché in Saudi Arabia and in 2006 attended the U.S. Army War College. The fact that he regularly consultswith Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the 89-year-old Egyptian journalist who was a close confidante of Gamal Abdel Nasser, perhaps the greatest Arab nationalist hero, suggests al-Sisi is ambitious. A profile in the Daily Beast reveals little about al-Sisi that couldn't be said of much of Egypt's, or indeed all of the world's, male population — he's religious, conservative, keeps his own counsel and believes he is born to lead rather than follow. A professor who taught al-Sisi at the Army War College recalls that among all the Arab officers still reeling from the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Egyptian officer exhibited more self-control than the rest.
Self-control is hardly the first attribute that comes to mind to describe a man who during his brief tenure as de facto ruler of Egypt has already killed hundreds in the streets. That is, it is not the raw data of biography that shows who someone is — rather, it is the choices one makes and the actions taken that draw the lineaments of character. Here, al-Sisi is wanting.
If the White House still refuses to call al-Sisi's July 3 coup by its proper name and much of Egypt rationalizes it as an intervention to save democracy backed by a large part of the population, the reality is that the army took sides with one half of the country against the other. The 2012 election that put Morsi in the presidential palace showed that the Muslim Brotherhood had broad support. How many people may have changed their mind about Morsi over the course of a year when he proved incapable of governing or how many people the anti-Morsi forces put into the streets to demand his exit is immaterial. Al-Sisi failed to comprehend the obvious consequences of reversing the outcome of the country's first free vote — he was taking on not only the Muslim Brotherhood but also running roughshod over the political will of millions of Egyptians. The first move Egypt's new ruler made was to create the conditions for civil war.
Al-Sisi's campaign against the Brotherhood, including the arrest of Badie, shows that he is keen to decapitate them. Whether or not he's capable of putting down a political movement born in 1928 and steeled by more than 80 years of violent repression remains to be seen. He certainly can't crush all the many millions of Egyptians who support them.
As for Mubarak, yes, he deserves better than prison. He kept Egypt stable and at peace for 30 years and the young tech-savvy revolutionaries who helped topple him in 2011 owe their advancement and privilege to him. However, to release him now sets the revolutionaries against al-Sisi, the man they thought had come to restore the revolution that Morsi derailed. In freeing Mubarak, al-Sisi may well have further divided Egypt — the army and the Brotherhood and the revolutionaries against each other.
The Middle East is not like Norway or Denmark, as one Middle East leader famously said, referring to the region's ruthless and often bloody political ethos. However, the Middle East is also not the lowest circle of hell. Rulers may at times find violence a useful tactic to achieve certain ends, but it is not a strategy, not the endgame, unless they wish to govern only rubble and flames. That's where al-Sisi is leading Egypt.
Posted: 22 Aug 2013 02:11 AM PDT
In the 24 years since Francis Fukuyama wrote his seminal article in The National Interest describing liberal democracy as a sort of steady-state culmination of the history of political and economic organization, others have gone in different directions on the question of whether that history embodies a grand trend, whether it is leading to some sort of final equilibrium, and if so what the nature of that equilibrium will be. Many thoughts on the subject are, unsurprisingly, influenced by salient events of the day, just as critics of Fukuyama thought he was overly influenced by the Western victory over Soviet communism in the Cold War, which was getting wrapped up just about the time he was writing. More recently it has been the Middle East that has been supplying most of the salient short-term events that inspire thoughts about long-term trends such as democratization.
"Short-term" in this case means even shorter than the less than three years that the regional upheaval known as the Arab Spring has been going on. Fast-moving events have led to quick changes in prognoses about things such as trends in democratization. Early in the upheaval one heard lots of talk about democracy inexorably breaking out all over. More recent news from the likes of Syria and Egypt has led to similarly sweeping pronouncements that the Arab Spring will prove to be a bust.
Many of the arguments on this subject have appropriately focused on factors specific to the Middle East. There are, for example, the ways in which abundant natural resources can paradoxically redound to the political as well economic disadvantage of those who have them—a dynamic sometimes referred to as the oil curse. Then there is there is religiously driven conflict related to how the region is the birthplace of the three big monotheistic relations. It is also appropriate, however, to plug the Middle Eastern events into that broader question of grand trends in human history and perhaps link them to data points from elsewhere in the world.
One interesting data point from last week’s news comes from China. A memo, known as Document No. 9, circulating among cadres of the Chinese Communist Party warns about the dangers from seven subversive influences, with "Western constitutional democracy" being at the top of the list, followed by such others as freedom of the press, civic participation, and ideas about universal human rights. What is striking, even for a document evidently not intended for external consumption, is how direct and blunt a rejection this is of values associated with liberal democracy. It is not a given that this would be the response of the CCP. If these values have such attractiveness—as followers of Fukuyama’s argument would expect—to be seen as a threat to the current political order in China, one can imagine more nuanced and clever ways for party leaders to co-opt, adopt, or spin these values that would reduce the threat, rather than simply warning party members not to be tempted or tainted by them.
There are explanations that can be made for Document No. 9 in terms of internal CCP politics. Perhaps, for example, this was red meat that Xi Jinping believed he had to throw to party leftists to help get their support or acquiescence with other things on his agenda, such as fighting corruption.
But there also is a simple and straightforward way of interpreting Document No. 9—as simple and straightforward as the document itself—that addresses the big-picture question of long-term political evolution. Most authoritarian rulers (whether individuals or, as in China, a party or collective leadership) want to retain their power. Having power means they have wherewithal to do something about retaining that power. That is especially true in states that are big or wealthy. When feeling threatened by democratic or other sentiments challenging their rule, they have all the more incentive to step up their game and push back harder against such threats, and they do exactly that. And all of this is a major reason the world never gets to a worldwide liberal democratic end state.
Authoritarian regimes are focused on retaining power in (and of) their own countries, but in so doing they may retard democratic trends elsewhere. Saudi Arabia is doing exactly that by opening its checkbook for the benefit of the generals in Egypt. The Saudis are concerned about any Muslim Brotherhood influence in their own kingdom, because the Brotherhood demonstrates how Islam can be combined with democratic electoral politics and constitutes a direct challenge to the Saudis’ own claim to religious legitimacy for their authoritarian rule. But the main effect of what they are doing is to set back hopes for democratization in the most populous Arab country, Egypt. Somewhat similarly, when China provides no-strings-attached bilateral aid it is usually doing so to gain access to resources for the economic benefit of China itself. But the main political effect in many of the recipient countries is to bolster authoritarian rule.
We can see some of the effects in one of the best scorecards for keeping track of trends in implementing liberal democratic values: the annual survey by Freedom House. That scorecard tells us that if there is, or was, a trend toward more liberal democracy, it has flat-lined for at least the last 15 years or so, since the improvements in the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet empire. The proportion of countries that are free, that are not free, and that are electoral democracies are all essentially the same as they were in the mid-1990s.
Maybe there is a sort of end-state in political evolution, but it does not entail the global triumph of liberal democracy or any other single type of system. Instead, it is an equilibrium in which democratic and authoritarian forces pushing against each other lead to the kind of balance reflected in the relatively static Freedom House numbers. The balance involves actions and reactions, including authoritarian rulers pushing back harder at the very times that democratic forces might otherwise be gaining some momentum.
That observation, however, which primarily uses a time frame of a couple of decades, must immediately be coupled with a couple of caveats, one with a shorter frame of reference and the other with a longer one.
The short-term caveat is that none of these observations lessens the immediate policy challenges of dealing with a problem such as Egypt. Political trends as they manifest themselves there or anywhere else are not the inexorable outcome of some sort of historical determinism. Choices matter, choices have to be made, and important interests are at stake in making them.
The long-term caveat is that patterns we see over the past couple of decades are only suggestive of what might be the correct answer to the questions about political evolution and end states; they do not nail down the answer with certainty. Much more time may be needed to do that, if we can do it at all. In some natural systems a very long time frame is needed to get the whole picture of what is going on. The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould emphasized that most evolution has taken place in spurts, with long periods of relative stasis in between. If you looked just at one of the more static eons, you might mistakenly believe Darwin was wrong. We probably won’t know in our lifetimes whether Fukuyama, his critics, or the observations above about equilibria will turn out to be right.
Posted: 22 Aug 2013 01:34 AM PDT
Pakatan Rakyat akan melancarkan Belanjawan Alternatif 2014 sebagai bukti bahawa pakatan politik itu mampu memberikan yang terbaik kepada rakyat berbanding kerajaan Umno-BN.
Oleh itu, bagi merealisasikan perkara itu satu jawantankuasa dianggotai golongan profesional dan Ahli Parlimen Pakatan Rakyat telah dibentuk hari ini.
Jawantankuasa ini akan dibantu Institut Rakyat, sebuah badan pemikir yang dibarisi pakar ekonomi dan akademik bagi memberi pandangan ke arah pembentukan Malaysia lebih baik.
"Antara yang turut dimuatkan dalam belanjawan ini termasuklah tawaran sebagaimana diumum dalam manifesto pada pilihan raya umum lalu serta beberapa langkah lain yang akan diumumkan kelak," kata wakil Institut Rakyat, Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajuddin.
Bekas Ketua Ekonomi Bank Islam Malaysia itu akan memantau Kementerian Kewangan yang diterajui Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Antara jawatankuasa yang hadir ialah Dr Ong Kian Ming(Ahli Parlimen Serdang), Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad (Kuala Terengganu), Dr Azman Ismail (Kuala Kedah), G.Manivanan (Kapar),Datuk Dr Idris Jauzi (Batu Pahat), Julian Tan (Stampin, Sarawak) dan Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong (Wangsa Maju).
Sementara itu, Ong berkata, setiap pandangan Adun dan Ahli Parlimen Pakatan turut dikutip dalam penyediaan belanjawan itu selepas mereka mengumpulnya melalui dialog dengan pengundi di kawasan masing-masing.
"Setiap Adun dan MP Pakatan ini akan dibahagi kepada Sembilan kumpulan iaitu Antarabangsa dan Kebangsaan; Ekonomi dan Kewangan; Keselamatan; Pendidikan dan Pekerjaan; Pertanian, Perladangan dan Pembangunan Luar Bandar; Pengangkutan dan Pembangunan Bandar; Pengurusan sumber Alam; Masyarakat, Kebajikan dan Gender; serta Polisi melibatkan sabah dan Sarawak," katanya.
Bagi Raja Kamarul, sekretariat katanya memfokuskan keberkesanan belanjawan kepada rakyat dan bukannya semata-mata berapa banyak jumlah wang yang diumum sebagaimana amalan Umno BN.
Posted: 21 Aug 2013 10:29 PM PDT
I don’t know whether you recall how the last Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-98 affected us all. Malaysia was very badly hit. Our stock market dropped from 1,385 to 295 points while our ringgit went down to as low as RM4.80 to the dollar.
At the height of the crisis, our interest rates went up to as high as 18%. After a break of 15 years are we going to see the same scenario again?
I am not sure but one thing that’s certain is that the current situation in Asia does have some resemblances, such as depreciating currencies and interest rates hike across the region.
The last time the Asian Financial Crisis started in Thailand and this time – if it cannot be controlled – I reckon this time it will blow from India.
Measures taken by Indian authorities
In an attempt to stamp further outflow of funds, India has recently resorted to some limited capital control such as the following.
> Reducing the amount of money Indian residents can sent out overseas annually from $200,000 to $75,000
> Indian firms can only invest 100% of their net worth down from 400% previously
> Total ban on all importation of Gold coins and Medallions from abroad
However such measures are only temporary in halting further outflow of funds as it is counter-productive and will only slow the economy. Part of the blame goes to the Multinationals that are allowed to operate in India during the opening of its economy in the 1990s.
The Indian government states that instead of contributing to the Indian economy through the transfer of technology and also managerial skills they ended up raping the Indian economy high and dry.
And when it is all done they now depart for greener pastures and as a result exacerbated the outflow of funds. India's economic fundamentals have been deteriorating for the past couple of years. Let's take a look at some of India's economic indicators.
India's Deteriorating Economic conditions
The following is the chart for India's GDP Growth rate. Its GDP expanded 1.3% in the last quarter of 2012 which average at about 1% for 2012. It slowed since 2009 and the Indian Government has difficulty in achieving the growth set in previous years due to issues like corruption and nepotism.
Although India's Government Debt to GDP decreased from 68.05% to 67.57% but its external debt increased to USD 345 billion in 2012 from USD 305 billion in 2011. With a depreciating Rupee it means India has to pay more Rupees for its external debt which is quoted in dollars.
The following chart shows India's Rupee performance for the past three years.
Since the beginning of the year India's rupee has been on the decline. The latest for the USD/INR is quoted at 63.61 and this represents a record low for the Rupee. Since May this year the Rupee has lost about 20%.
The Reserve Bank of India has the choice of either letting the market to decide on the level of the Rupee or increase its interest rate to stop the outflow of currency.
Instead of letting the market forces to determine the exchange rate level, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) chose to defend it. From the last Asian financial crisis we learnt that none of the affected countries successful in defending their currencies except Hong Kong with the backing of China.
As have been mentioned earlier in one of my article on the predicament of Central Bank policy makers. They can only choose either to promote internal stability through Monetary Policy or external stability through Exchange Rate Policy but cannot have both at the same time.
If the Reserve Bank of India choose to promote internal stability through Monetary Policy by increasing interest rates then it will cause a deep recession. This is also known as the 'Volcker effect' where former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker was credited for ending the stagflation crisis in the late 1970s.
In order to end the inflation rate at 13.5% and an unemployment rate of more than 10%, he raised the prime rate to 21.5% in 1981. The end result is a severe recession which lasted until 1982 and after which the U.S economy expanded for the next 8 years.
The second option available to the RBI is the exchange rate policy where it will defend the Rupee through its open market operations by selling its foreign exchange reserves which is denominated dollars. However such a policy will only help deepen the financial crisis because it might start off a chain reaction of currency devaluation.
The current stand by the RBI to defend the Rupee can be disastrous as evident during the last Asian financial crisis after it spread from Thailand. As a result Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea are also affected.
Moreover this may result in a further hike of the interest rate as already been happening in some Asian countries as of late. Their 10 year bond yields have been soaring across the region in an attempt to fight currency sell off and even Malaysia is not spared.
The following is the chart of the Indian Government 10 year bond.
As from May, India's 10 year bond yield has appreciated close to 200 basis points (2%) with the latest being at 9.12%. Malaysia does not fared any better with its 10 year bond yield rally to about 4.1% from 3.5% in May. The following is the graph of Malaysia's 10 year bond yield.
Why are 10 year bond yields important?
When the yield on the 10 year bond goes up it indicates that the long term interest rates is going up. When interest rates goes up it will affect a lot of investments in the economy. It will affect the stock market, the housing market, credit card, personal loans and so on.
Due to the increased cost of borrowing it will affect investments in the stock market because the margin rate will also increase. It will affect the housing market because less people are willing to commit on new housing and as a result prices will have to come down. For those who have bought they will also be affected due to increased mortgage payments. Hence it will affect the overall economic activity.
Another Asian contagion is not impossible
In wrapping up, I reckon that India's weak economic fundamentals and its structural problems will present itself as a target for currency speculators.
With the foreign exchange reserves of only INR 15102 billion or about USD 238 billion it is not a large sum when you are under attack by currency speculators. This is because the foreign exchange market trades more than USD 5 trillion a day. So the threat of further weakening of the already record low Rupee is clear and present.
Any attempt by the speculators to destabilize the Rupee might be contagious and will destabilize the already tensed situation in Asia.
Posted: 21 Aug 2013 10:04 PM PDT
Sambutan Hari Raya Eidul Fitri, 23 Ogos 2013 (JUMAAT)
5 petang: Pejabat KeADILan Cabang Tanjung Malim, Bandar Behrang
7:30 malam: Maghrib dan tazkirah, Masjid Abdul Rahman Auf, Taman Rapat Koperasi, Ipoh
8:30 malam: Sambutan Hari Raya Negeri, Wisma MPN, Medan Istana, Ipoh
10:30 malam: Pejabat KeADILan Cabang Tambun, Rumah Hijau Batu 11, Jelapang, Chemor
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