Showing posts from November, 2009

Will unemployment be Obama's Katrina?

Business Times - 27 Nov 2009 Will unemployment be Obama's Katrina? After 22 months of job losses, Geithner has become a convenient target for populist rage By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT THERE have been some encouraging signs of recovery in parts of the American economy recently. Hence, the National Association of Realtors reported this week that sales of existing homes were up by more than 10 per cent in October, hitting the highest levels in two-and-a-half years. At the same time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been hovering above 10,000 for a while and retailers are hoping that more confident American consumers will spend more time - and money - in the shopping malls during the coming holiday season. Indeed, most economists seem to agree that the Great Recession is over. But then, the same economists are also predicting several quarters of substandard growth and rising unemployment. Currently, the unemployment rate stands at 10.2 per cent, the highest level in 26 y

Forget about a climate change deal anytime soon

Business Times - 19 Nov 2009 Forget about a climate change deal anytime soon By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AS someone who has been following the political and legislative debate over climate change in the US Congress, I was a bit startled that so many pundits seemed so very surprised when President Barack Obama was forced to acknowledge in Singapore over the weekend that a comprehensive climate deal was beyond reach this year. Instead, he and other world leaders agreed that they would work towards a more 'modest' interim agreement with a promise to renew work towards a binding treaty next year. Good luck with that! And here is a bold prediction: There would probably be no support in Congress during the rest of Mr Obama's term for any binding accord to address global warming, making it very difficult to negotiate any global accord to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. The election of a charismatic Democratic US President who pledged during his campaign

Tough going for bid to pare Fed

Business Times - 17 Nov 2009 Tough going for bid to pare Fed By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT US LAWMAKERS have been drawing plans on how to reform financial regulations and prevent another deadly meltdown, more than a year after the economic crisis started. At the centre of the debate on Capitol Hill has been the role that the US central bank should (or shouldn't) play in regulating financial institutions. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who is backed by President Barack Obama and his top economic aides, wants the Fed to take upon itself the responsibility of a top regulator. Both Republican and Democratic critics argue that the Fed has not had a very strong record as a regulator and want to deny the Fed any new regulatory powers. Hence, while legislation offered by Democratic Representative Barney Frank of Massachussetts, the chairman of the House of Representatives' Financial Services Committee, posits a powerful bank regulatory role for the Fed, a bill proposed

From Seattle to Singapore

Business Times - 10 Nov 2009 From Seattle to Singapore America's free market model has, since 1993, been challenged by major geo-strategic setbacks and the global financial crisis. By LEON HADAR WHEN then US President Bill Clinton convened the first APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Blake Island near Seattle, Washington, on Nov 19-20, 1993, America and the world seemed to be going through very dramatic political changes - not unlike today, when the 17th annual APEC Economic Leaders Meeting opens in Singapore. In 1993, the end of the Cold War, coupled with the ushering of the era of globalisation, had driven Washington to assert its leadership role in promoting free markets around the world and in liberalising global trade and investment. And the Pacific region was becoming a central arena for promoting this ambitious American geo-economic agenda. Sixteen years later, in the aftermath of major geo-strategic setbacks and against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, America'

Obama's Asia trip sign of US role uncertainty

Business Times - 10 Nov 2009 Obama's Asia trip sign of US role uncertainty It's part of effort to counter impression from Bush days that US is retreating from region By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT ONE of the complaints made by officials and pundits across the Pacific, and especially in South-east Asia, during the eight years that ex-president George W Bush was in charge of US foreign policy was that Washington wasn't paying enough attention to the strategic and economic changes that were taking place in East Asia - in particular, to the dramatic rise in Chinese influence in the region. Indeed, American diplomatic and military energy since the attacks of 9/11 were directed at winning the campaign against terrorism pursued in the so-called Greater Middle East that included the two long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The perception among many East Asians has been that the US was 'underinvolved' in their region during the Bush administration, according

GOP wins a referendum on Obama?

Business Times - 05 Nov 2009 GOP wins a referendum on Obama? The recent elections for governor in Virginia and New Jersey expose a deep political divide inside the Republican Party By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IT'S been a year since Barack Obama and the Democrats took control of the White House and Congress and the Republican Party was kicked out of power in the 2008 election. Many of the pundits celebrated those elections as 'historic' and 'transformative'. They argued that its political significance went beyond the obvious - for the first time American voters decided to send an African-American to the White House, a choice that reflected a revolutionary change in American attitudes on race, an issue that has plagued the nation's political history, with the civil war between the Northern and slave-owning Southern states being the most dramatic example. But against the backdrop of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s and

Tackling the 'too big to fail' firms

Business Times - 03 Nov 2009 Tackling the 'too big to fail' firms Bill grants Washington sweeping new powers to police giants, but would regulators be able to regulate themselves? By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IT'S official! The recession is over. The American economy grew at a 3.5 per cent annual rate in the third quarter, bringing to an end a series of declines over four quarters that produced the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and is considered to be the most devastating downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But as officials and lawmakers in Washington study the latest better-than-expected gross domestic product numbers released last Thursday, they are focusing their attention on finding ways to prevent another economic crisis by dealing with some of the fundamental problems that led to the financial meltdown and the ensuing severe recession. Hence, the head of a key House committee unveiled legislation last Wednesday that would grant