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  • Publication Date: 05-2002
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: This week's piece examines the prospects for tidal stream and competing offshore renewable energy technologies. Options for exploiting the energy available from the world's oceans include offshore wind, wave and tidal stream energy. Offshore wind is by far the closest to commercial exploitation, but the range of possibilities is surprisingly broad.
  • Topic: Development, Environment, Government, Science and Technology
  • Publication Date: 04-2002
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: First-quarter GDP grew by 5.8%, the US government announced on Friday, 26 April 2002. The high growth figure will provide sustenance for optimists and help support high stock market valuations. However, the contrast with high-profile corporate earnings disappointments, together with a closer look at sources of demand, suggests a far weaker performance in the rest of 2002 and in 2003.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 04-2002
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: This week's piece is on policy options for pension funding from an intergenerational risk-sharing perspective. Demographic and business-cycle trends point to a shortfall in pension provision for retiring generations over the medium term.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Publication Date: 02-2002
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The largest US-based pension fund last week listed 13 emerging markets that its fund managers will be allowed to invest in. Investment firms appointed by the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) will actively manage up to one billion dollars in equity investments in 13 countries and unwind CalPERS' equity positions in markets outside them. As a large institutional investor, CalPERS' decisions have an important signalling role for a variety of institutional funds.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 07-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The rotating EU presidency this week passed from the Swedish to the Belgian government. The Belgian presidency faces a considerable test of nerve as it attempts to square its constitutional ambitions for further political integration with the increasing unpredictability of European public opinion. The new public mood of caution towards European integration has resulted in a notable ambivalence on the part of Verhofstadt. While stressing the importance of a completely open debate, Verhofstadt is also using the more closed approach of close consultation between governments and their representatives in preparing keynote proposals for the Laeken European Council, which, in reality, is the only way of reaching solutions.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 06-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Opposition Peronist party governors and trade unions this week broke off institutional dialogue with the federal government over recent economic measures and pending debts. The fourteen governors in question, their minds on mid-term legislative elections, believe that the political cost of supporting the government will be greater than the cost of being seen to scupper its initiatives, and that opposition constitutes a more effective means of pressing their demands. Their decision puts the prospects for Argentina's economic recovery at risk. The Peronist governors' decision to distance themselves from the government both reflects and compounds the weakness of the federal administration. While their new approach to force concessions from the government could ease social problems in the short term, there is a danger that it will do so at the expense of economic recovery and political stability in the longer term.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: South America
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 06-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: President Mohammed Khatami was re-elected on June 8 by a huge margin. Khatami's supporters are already talking about a renewed campaign for reform under a reorganised cabinet and a reinvigorated Majlis. However, the obstacles to such a programme remain formidable. Khatami is likely to press a little more strongly for reform, especially in the economic field. However, doubts remains that he or his parliamentary colleagues have the means to use the renewed mandate provided by the election to press for radical change. Any change is therefore likely to modest and incremental, though, in the Iranian context, significant.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 06-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The new King of Nepal, Gyanendra Shah, promised an inquiry into the massacre that killed almost the entire royal family on June 1. Given the former king's legacy as adored head of state and symbol of stability, his violent death has created extreme political uncertainty. It has occurred at a time of general political unrest in the form of strikes and demonstrations in the towns and an increasingly violent Maoist insurrection in the countryside. In the short term, violent demonstrations over the unsatisfactory nature of official explanations of how the royal family died will continue. They may do so even after the findings of the independent inquiry into the deaths are announced. A return to calm depends largely on King Gyanendra's ability to govern in the same manner as his murdered brother.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Nepal
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 05-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The proposed takeover bids directive may be lost unless the differences between the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of Ministers are resolved by June 6. The ongoing negotiations between the Council and the EP in the conciliation committee may be made more difficult by Germany's recent decision to renege on the Council common position on the directive. The move was received with incomprehension in other EU member states. Germany so far stands alone in its attempt to change the directive. Nevertheless, its decision could give MEPs enough ammunition to avoid a compromise in the conciliation committee, and hence to allow the directive to fail. More importantly, Germany's decision also draws attention to the various level-playing field issues still to be addressed in the area of corporate control through greater harmonisation of company law.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 05-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The outcome of last Sunday's general election is now clear. Although the centre-right has won substantial majorities in both houses of parliament, both the Alleanza Nazionale and the Northern League suffered setbacks. The League failed to pass the threshold needed to qualify for a share of the quarter of seats in the Chamber of Deputies allocated by proportional representation. For the time being, Forza Italia, and therefore Berlusconi, who dominates the party, is in firm control of the centre-right coalition. If Berlusconi can retain his authority over the coalition for the next five years, it could assist in stabilising a still highly-fractured and potentially unstable party system.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 04-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will elect a new president on April 24. Given that the LDP is the largest party in parliament, its president will also become the country's prime minister. While the media and the public are demanding genuine leadership from the government, the LDP's structure militates strongly against forthright policy-making.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Japan, East Asia
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 04-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The US Supreme Court heard oral argument last month on whether 'medical necessity' should override the federal government's blanket prohibition on the use of marijuana. If the Court were to accept this argument, it would provide a powerful boost to the medical marijuana movement and hamper the federal government's ability to pursue its current drugs policy. A ruling in favour of the federal government, however, would constrain the ability of states to formulate independent drug policies. The Supreme Court is likely to sidestep the substantive issue of whether 'medical necessity' allows the distribution of marijuana to seriously ill patients. Its inclination will be to decide the case on a narrow procedural ground which would leave the federal government to decide if it wishes to pursue criminal prosecutions.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: On March 15, Defence Minister George Fernandes resigned. Fernandes' resignation follows last week's revelations about cash-for-influence exchanges with journalists posing as arms dealers. Although the Union coalition government is likely to survive the affair, its prestige has been severely damaged. The most serious potential of the Tehelka scandal is the government's loss of the moral authority to forge ahead with its economic reform programme. Opponents of liberalisation, both on the right and the left, are attempting to draw political capital from the affair.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced a new approach to monetary policy which effectively targets money supply growth and inflation on March 19. The BoJ has indicated that the immediate consequence of its measures to boost financial system liquidity will be to push short-term interest rates back to zero or virtually zero. It has pledged to maintain rates at this level until deflationary pressures are reversed and the consumer price index becomes positive. The BoJ's actions have the potential to lead to a revival in share prices, corporate activity and bank lending. If the initiative results in a sustained weakening of the yen, the economy may also benefit from stronger export growth. However, the effect of all of these measures will be blunted unless they are accompanied by the structural reforms which the government has for some time foreshadowed, but which have suffered from delay and indecision.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Japan, East Asia
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: President Aburrahman Wahid yesterday visited Central Kalimantan, the scene of violent clashes between local Dayaks and Madurese settlers. The crisis has its origins in the ill-conceived transmigration policies of the Suharto era. Despite its localised and specific nature, there is a significant risk that it will embolden other outer-island communities to move more decisively against non-indigenous sections of local populations. This would place further strains on the thinly-stretched security forces. With Wahid's authority already weakened, the crisis in Central Kalimantan will strengthen the position of hard-line elements in the military who are opposed to the president. Nonetheless, Megawati's ability to gain political capital will be limited by the fact that she herself has a leading role in formulating policy towards the regions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Government, Migration, Politics
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) has won full control over parliament following the February 25 general election. The decisive result has broken the country's political stalemate and allows the PCM to select the president, premier and parliamentary speaker without needing to form a coalition in the chamber. However, uncertainties over the PCM's economic policy and political priorities persist. While the PCM has a monopoly on power, this could be undermined by continued economic decline, internal party splits and a nationalist backlash against its pro-Russian orientation. The PCM will seek allies in domestic politics, and will seek to find the external partner, whether Russia or the IFIs, best able to assist in the long-term revival of the economy.
  • Topic: Communism, Government, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Moldova, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The past month has seen an escalation of elite political conflict in Jakarta, with enemies of President Abdurrahman Wahid engineering an investigation into allegations that he was involved in two financial corruption scandals. This investigation culminated in the endorsement by a majority of members of the House of Representatives on February 1 of a 'memorandum' concluding that the president was indeed implicated in corruption and demanding that he account for his actions. Many opposition legislators also called for the convening of a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the 700-member supra-parliamentary body which elected Wahid as president in October 1999 and has sole power to remove him.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 02-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: A combination of good fortune and some skilful planning have allowed the Bush administration to make a successful start in office. These factors will probably allow the president to pursue much of his agenda effectively this year. However, difficulties will be encountered once Washington politics becomes preoccupied by the 2002 congressional elections.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 02-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Likud leader Ariel Sharon's resounding victory in last Tuesday's election for prime minister has produced a chaotic political situation. The Knesset is likely to remain as dysfunctional as it was before the election campaign and Sharon will face immense difficulties in his attempts to form a government and pass the budget. Even should he succeed, it is possible that the government will fall before the next scheduled election, and that he will face a credible challenge from former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 02-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Opposition deputies, led by former justice minister Serhiy Holovatiy, have called on President Leonid Kuchma to resign over his alleged involvement in the murder of a journalist. The scandal has provoked popular protests and divided Kuchma's non-left majority in parliament, although the work of the reformist government has not been adversely affected. The case has highlighted the absence of the rule of law and the executive's control over supposedly independent state organs. Kuchma's fate depends on his ability to retain the support of oligarchic interests, some of which have already defected. His departure would enable the popular Yushchenko to campaign for the presidency while enjoying the benefits of incumbency, albeit in a temporary capacity.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe