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  • 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: 05-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Weather derivatives trading is undergoing exponential growth. The current size of the weather derivatives market is 8 billion dollars, and it is expected to grow to at least 300 billion dollars within a few years. The opportunity to reduce exposure to natural risks will be exploited by large corporate groups and, eventually, smaller players too. It is important for the future development of the weather market that players have confidence in their own ability to determine fair prices, and that of the market to deliver these. Such confidence will encourage liquidity in the market from the end-users. However, traditional derivatives exchanges may find it difficult to obtain volume (and hence liquidity) in weather markets.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology
  • 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: 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: 11-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Government spending is increasing in the run-up to general elections next month and attempts to liberalise the cocoa trade appear half-hearted. The effectiveness of liberal economic reforms will be constrained as long as Ghana remains vulnerable to fluctuations in the prices of a narrow range of exports. Moreover, anti-corruption measures will lose their bite if they are seen to be directed in part against the government's opponents.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Politics, Reform
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ghana
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 11-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: A leaked Shanghai Stock Exchange report has detailed the extent of trading irregularities within China's domestic equity markets. In the primary market, a series of companies have falsified records on profits, assets and even entire businesses in order to publicly issue and list shares. In the secondary markets, insider trading, the spreading of false information, coordinated stock purchases, price ramping and sales of stocks by large institutional investors are common practice. The extent of trading irregularities reflects the government's preference for market growth over regulatory standardisation. This approach is undermining the CSRC's credibility. Unless regulatory practices are tightened, institutional investors will not have the maturing effect on markets and stabilising impact on prices the government seeks.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 10-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Finance Minister Paul Martin announced new tax reductions in his annual economic statement this week. The mini-budget is part of the Liberal government's preparations for a general election that is expected to be called later this week. In order to secure another majority in the House of Commons, the federal Liberals will need to maintain their popularity in Ontario and increase their support in Atlantic Canada. If the Liberals fail to regain their majority, they will probably rely on the support of New Democratic legislators. If this happens, the new government would place less emphasis on tax cuts and debt reduction, and more stress on spending, than would otherwise have been the case.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Canada
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 10-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: This week, the Majlis approved a government bill authorising immediate use of the 2000-01 budget surplus. The windfall surplus, largely the result of increased oil revenues, should amount to 6-10 billion dollars by the end of the fiscal year in March. It will certainly transform Iran's external finances, but its impact on the domestic economy will be less immediate, and it will do little to ease investor concerns. Khatami's efforts to attract greater foreign investment depend on reform of the judiciary and other key changes to the regulatory climate. In the meantime, continuing political turmoil will deter all but those investors prepared to take a long-term view of Iran's economic potential.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 10-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The recommendation reflects a conflict between the bank and the finance ministry over whether or not the economy is overheating. Increasingly, the conflict is being fought in public circles after months of low-key clashes. The uncharacteristic rift between the monetary and fiscal authorities is likely to widen over the final two months of the Zedillo administration, as signs of overheating continue to accumulate. While pressure for a substantial fiscal adjustment is likely to be irresistible when Fox takes over on December 1, concerns are growing regarding his capacity to execute such a policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: North America, Mexico
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 09-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Corruption deters foreign lending and investment. Except in the oil and gas sector, Nigeria's economic advantages are not sufficiently countervailing. The national reputation for corruption encourages further abuse since no one's reputation suffers through acting dishonesty. Despite reforming efforts, grand corruption is likely to persist because of the continuing large flows through official hands of unearned income from natural resources.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 09-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Although the transition from Nelson Mandela's to Thabo Mbeki's presidency has been marked by continued political stability and conservative economic management, Mbeki's political judgement is increasingly being questioned in several key policy areas. Unless Mbeki succeeds in allaying concerns about his leadership, the stability of South Africa's present political arrangements will be undermined.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa
  • Author: Caspar Fithin
  • Publication Date: 09-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Not all capital outflows from developing countries should be characterised as capital flight; some are simply the analogues of outward FDI and portfolio diversification in the more advanced economies. Nonetheless, a substantial proportion is classic flight capital, linked to tax evasion or criminal activity, and transferred abroad via misinvoicing and complex financial transactions. Capital flight leads to a significant loss of investment in the most affluent developing countries, and a crippling one in the poorest. However, staunching the flow is likely to prove extremely difficult. It will require greater economic stability and institutional certainty in the source countries, and more rigorous tax enforcement and cooperation in the destination states.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, Government, International Trade and Finance, Third World
  • Publication Date: 07-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Official attention has shifted from the need to avert recession towards the problems of managing growth. There is some evidence that higher interest rates have begun to slow the expansion to a more sustainable pace in the Anglo-Saxon economies, but it remains unclear whether the principal central banks have done enough to bring demand growth back into line with sustainable increases in supply. The markets expect any further tightening to be limited, but the current position of the monetary authorities should probably be characterised as a pause in the tightening cycle, rather than the peak.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • Publication Date: 05-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The US economy is experiencing its longest-ever recorded period of sustained growth. The current expansion, which began in March 1991, is the longest of the 32 which have been registered by the Bureau of Economic Analysis since 1854 and is now in its tenth year and 110th month. Moreover, since 1995, real GDP has grown at an average annual rate of more than 4.25% -- a rate not experienced since the 1960s. The expansion is consistent with the changing pattern of business cycles, insofar as the average length of economic expansions has nearly doubled from about 2.5 years during 1900-53 to about 5 years in the second half of the century (while the average length of contractions has fallen to less than twelve months). However, even allowing for this transformation, the current expansion seems to be exceptional, both for its duration and its strength. The coincidence of a long and inflation-free expansion with the boom in information and communication technologies (ICT) has sparked a debate about their interdependence.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 05-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Inflation has begun to accelerate throughout the OECD-area, mainly as a result of higher oil prices. The increase comes from a low base and official forecasts suggest that the price outlook is generally benign. However, a further tightening of monetary policy in order to contain inflation at these low levels is now probably the most important threat to asset market valuations and the continued expansion of the global economy. Product market liberalisation, globalisation and the advent of the internet have brought real and lasting changes in pricing behaviour that will not disappear with a global upturn. These trends have been reinforced by improvements in the operation, credibility and effectiveness of national monetary policies. Nevertheless, historical experience suggests that inflationary pressures could accelerate rapidly as the major economies enter their first period of coincident growth since 1988-90. The result is likely to be tighter monetary policy rather than permanently higher inflation and long-term interest rates.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 06-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The current bubble in 'technology stocks' has led to official concern about over-enthusiasm by investors and the banking consequences of a sudden price collapse. The first signs of the long awaited shift emerged last week, as investors shifted from fashionable technology, media and telecoms (TMT) stock back into traditional 'old economy' blue chips. Capital flooding in from Europe and Japan to the United States has been attracted to booming markets led mostly by these stocks. The rest of the market (misleadingly known as the 'old economy') has risen comparatively little.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, Europe
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 03-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: While the region has now emerged from recession, economic reforms remain incomplete and politically contentious. There is a risk that complacency and intransigence will weaken the momentum behind reforms before their full benefits can be felt. For countries not immediately enveloped by it, the East Asian crisis laid bare the risks associated with postponing economic reform without necessarily producing change.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: East Asia
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 02-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: China's relatively rapid growth cannot mask the fundamental problems the economy faces. The government will be forced to continue to apply stimulus to the economy, but the sustainability of this approach is limited. The positive impact of eventual WTO membership will take time to be felt, while accession–related reforms and increased foreign competition will prove disruptive. The country has a limited time in which to prepare.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 01-2000
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Gone are the days when the large investment banks defined their global reach in terms of the emerging markets of Eastern Europe. Indeed, the emerging markets label is fading away in favour of new 'global' buzzwords. However, just one year on from the emerging market crisis that threatened the bull of the world financial market, is this rethinking of the emerging markets premature?
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe