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  • Publication Date: 01-2002
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: This week's piece examines the ECB's monetary and communication policy. The Governing Council of the ECB has appeared fairly unmoved either by widespread criticism of its communication policy or by growing pressure for lower interest rates. The ECB has no choice but to remain committed to its price stability mandate, despite the change in economic climate. However, in doing so, it remains vulnerable to the dilemmas posed by the combination of strong independence and a narrow mandate.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 12-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: This week's piece examines the impact of Argentina's economic difficulties on Chilean firms. As well as its macroeconomic impact in Chile, reflected principally in currency volatility and a reduction of capital inflows, the Argentine crisis is affecting Chilean firms with investments in or exports to Argentina. It will also have an impact on Chile's tourist industry. Following the exit of many Chilean firms from Argentina over the last two years, those that remain are either in export sectors or have a long-term strategy under which they appear willing to ride out the present crisis. However, many will sustain short-term losses and some smaller investors, particularly in consumer sectors, may be forced out of the market.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Politics
  • Political Geography: Argentina, South America, Chile
  • Publication Date: 10-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Pacific Rim leaders on October 21 signed an accord to re-invigorate progress towards free trade and investment in the region. The Shanghai Accord marks the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum's effort to stimulate a flagging liberalisation agenda and to show leadership in promoting regional recovery. However, the accord may exacerbate the risk of further fracturing the diverse grouping. It will be difficult for APEC to move forward on trade liberalisation given that the organisation's own formulation of consensual, unbound liberalisation has proved unsuccessful in periods of economic crisis. The pathfinder initiative may re-energise the process but at the risk of APEC's fragmentation and without addressing the problems of some members' hesitation and lack of political will for domestic structural reform.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Politics
  • Political Geography: Shanghai, Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The outlook for trade ties between the EU and Mercosur. EU-Mercosur trade negotiations earlier this month gave a vigorous push to commercial negotiations between the two regions. The EU presented a detailed proposal for liberalising EU-Mercosur trade during the next ten years. Trade talks between the EU and Mercosur have now reached a more advanced stage than the talks on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
  • Topic: Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 07-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: India and Iran have proposed the construction of a natural gas pipeline connection. While the project would be a major engineering achievement, the principal challenge will be gaining Islamabad's consent for it to traverse Pakistani territory. Pakistan's parlous relations with Tehran and Delhi, the latter little improved by last weekend's summit, will make this difficult.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia, India, Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Despite the continuing fragility of the economy, prompt policy action and the resilience of the US consumer are likely to prevent a full-blown recession, thereby shaping the probable path of the US economic downturn. Therefore, the risk of negative balance sheets and potential inflationary problems could arise from too rapid a recovery.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics
  • 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: 05-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers yesterday began a visit to western Afghanistan to assess the country's deepening humanitarian crisis. Extreme drought and an intensification of the country's chronic war following a winter lull in fighting are likely to exacerbate famine and displacement of population. However, despite the emergence of a disaster which the international community will find difficult to ignore, UN sanctions against the Taliban, which controls 90% of the country, have done nothing either to curtail the movement's depredations against the population under its control or dampen its enthusiasm for a spring offensive. Peace for Afghanistan remains unrealistic as it enters its ninth year of civil war. Indeed, in the short term the total collapse of the country's agricultural system is likely to produce an influx of new recruits for this cycle of violence. However, evidence of a growing fractiousness within the Taliban could result in an emergence of a more moderate faction amenable both to dialogue with the international community and an accommodation with opposition forces.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Migration, Politics, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • 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: China said yesterday it would release the crew of the US EP-3 surveillance aircraft that was forced to land in Hainan Island on April 8, following a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter. The Bush administration will welcome resolution of the dispute, especially as opinion polls released yesterday showed that a majority of US citizens regarded the crew as 'hostages'. Had the 24 crew members not been released before the Easter holiday, the crisis would have become far more significant for the White House, and inflamed anti-China sentiment in Congress. In the short term, resolution of the crisis will result in a scaling down of the criticism of some conservatives that the White House has been unduly accommodating towards China. However, in the longer-term, the episode will strengthen the conservative 'anti-China' lobby in Washington, which could hamper Bush's future attempts to improve relations with Beijing.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Washington, Beijing
  • 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: 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