Showing posts from April, 2009

Obama's real tests yet to come

Business Times - 30 Apr 2009 Obama's real tests yet to come Putting America's economic house in order is his main challenge and the one that may determine his political legacy By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT WHEN a future historian examines US President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office, he or she will not be able to point to any major international crises that could have tested the new White House's occupant's performance as a commander-in-chief. It is true that giving a green light to US commandos to kill three Somali pirates and rescue a kidnapped American captain may have been another demonstration of Mr Obama's gift of maintaining his cool under pressure. But the incident and its successful outcome could not be compared to, say, President John Kennedy's Cuban missile crisis or, for that matter, President George W Bush's response to the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. And while Mr Obama did take Europe by storm during the G-20 s

Bailout fatigue starting to show

Business Times - 24 Apr 2009 Bailout fatigue starting to show Congress and citizens alike are becoming dissatisfied with Washington's piecemeal rescues of big financial institutions By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT DURING his much anticipated testimony on Capitol Hill this week, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated that most of America's banks had sufficient reserves on hand to cover possible future losses. And he defended the federal government's US$700 billion bank rescue plan, insisting that the federal bailout fund still had enough money to cover future capital demands of troubled banks. Mr Geithner's testimony came as Congress was studying the Obama administration's proposal to provide regulators with power to seize financial institutions in future when their collapse could potentially devastate the entire financial system. At the same time, Americans regulators were preparing to release the results of the 'stress tests' that will dete

Obama should reverse policy on US trade embargoes

Business Times - 17 Apr 2009 Obama should reverse policy on US trade embargoes By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT ONE of the most dramatic changes in US foreign policy embraced by President Barack Obama has been his decision - announced this week on the eve of a summit with the leaders of South and Central America - to ease the US relationship with Cuba by lifting travel and spending restrictions on Americans with family on the island. The move amounts to an admission on the part of Washington that the policy of isolating the communist regime first imposed by the administration of former president John F Kennedy has failed. Moreover, as the United States takes the first steps towards normalising relations with Cuba, American officials and lawmakers should consider one of the main lessons of a half-century of failed policy towards Havana: trade embargoes only tend to help strengthen the power of the targets of these embargoes (the ruling authoritarian regime), while slowing - not ac

U, V, L or W - a question over the shape of recovery

Business Times - 15 Apr 2009 U, V, L or W - a question over the shape of recovery By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AFTER several months of depressing economic news and gloomy forecasts about the coming of Great Depression II, US President Barack Obama and his top economic aides are pointing to some progress on the horizon, including a rise in bank lending, easier credit for small businesses, and signs that economic stimulus spending is beginning to trickle down into infrastructure and energy projects. Indeed, the US President referred to 'glimmers of hope' when he spoke with reporters after meeting members of his economic team as well as with government banking regulators and the chairman of the Federal Reserve in the White House on Friday. 'We feel very good about the progress that we're making in unlocking lending in some particular markets,' said Mr Obama, noting that Americans were starting to get their first cheques as part of the tax cuts included in the

Republicans praying that Obama fails to fix economy

Business Times - 10 Apr 2009 Republicans praying that Obama fails to fix economy By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT NOW is not a great time to be a Republican in Washington. Despite the continuing economic meltdown and the never-ending attacks by the Republicans against President Barack Obama, the new White House occupant and the Democratic Party enjoy the support of the majority of Americans. According to the recent New York Times/CBS News poll, two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance, including the handling of the economy and foreign policy. In fact, according to the same poll only 31 per cent of Americans had a favourable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in 25 years. By more than three to one, voters said they trusted Mr Obama more than they trusted Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions about the economy. Even when it comes to national security, traditionally a policy issue over which the Republicans maintained some strength, Americans

New US brand name, new policies?

Business Times - 07 Apr 2009 New US brand name, new policies? Obama's revamp of the American image abroad has won approval; now he must follow through with appropriate action By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT THE first and probably most important thing that was going for US President Barack Obama during his meetings with world leaders in Europe was that he was not George W Bush. Indeed, many observers have contrasted the former and current US presidents in terms of their personalities - the gauche and clumsy Mr Bush versus the charming, and urbane Mr Obama, and proposed that the new White House occupant has captivated the world with his charisma while his predecessor had repulsed them with his crudeness. But that kind of explanation for Mr Obama's rock-star performance in London, Strasbourg, Prague and Ankara, and the perception that he handled the many economic and geopolitical policy issues on the agendas of the Group of 20 (G-20) and Nato summits like an international s

Obama, transformative president in the making

Business Times - 02 Apr 2009 Obama, transformative president in the making By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IF you were listening to some of the criticism directed against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama last year, you might have concluded that his detractors were confusing the African-American senator from Illinois who was raised by a young single mother of modest means and who had to study and work hard before being accepted by Columbia University and Harvard Law School with the scion of a wealthy WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) family from New England, who had studied in a prestigious preparatory school before his well-connected dad helped him get into an Ivy League university. Indeed, Mr Obama was depicted by some of his rivals as a salad-eating, Chardonnay sipping, over-educated and snobbish intellectual, who was out-of-touch with the concerns and values of hard-working 'regular folks' in the small towns and rural communities of America. Republican