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Consumer Credit in Canada

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Consumer Credit in Canada
Source: IBISWorld

Record low interest rates and rising house prices in Canada have encouraged Canadians to take on more debt over the 10 years to 2014, with similar trends expected over 2015. IBISWorld estimates that overall debt per capita including mortgages for Canadian consumers will increase at an annualized rate of 3.7% to $49,634 over the five years to 2014, while debt per capita excluding mortgages will increase at an annualized rate of 1.8% to $17,338 over the same period. IBISWorld expects overall debt and debt excluding mortgages to increase to $52,547 and $17,893, respectively, by the end of 2015. While the massive increase in consumer debt has enabled higher spending by Canadian consumers, benefiting many segments of the economy, high consumer debt could have potentially devastating consequences for the economy in case of any negative exogenous changes, such as a drop in house prices or an increase in interest rates.

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Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back – Commons Library Standard Note

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back – Commons Library Standard Note
Source: House of Commons Library

In May 2013 elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, won a majority of seats in parliament despite gaining only 47% of the vote. The opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), led by Anwar Ibrahim, gained 51% of the vote but extreme variations in the size of parliamentary constituencies across Malaysia meant that it was unable to translate that into electoral victory.

The outcome represented a further erosion of the BN’s once impregnable political ascendancy in Malaysia. Prime Minister Najib had sought to win back enough urban Malays and Chinese-origin voters by invoking “One Malaysia” and introducing a cautious range of political reforms. He did just enough, although the opposition challenged the probity of the result.

With his leadership under significant threat within UMNO, the dominant Malay party within the BN, since the 2013 elections Najib has launched a campaign of harassment of the political opposition and focused anew on affirmative action for Malays. Longstanding sodomy charges have been revived against Anwar Ibrahim – he is currently appealing against a five-year jail sentence but if unsuccessful his political career could well be over – and he could soon also be charged with sedition. Many wonder if the PR will hold together if he is removed from the scene.

At the same time, Najib has sought to preserve his international reputation as a reformer, focusing primarily on economic liberalisation measures. But a closer look suggests that his reforming credentials are currently somewhat threadbare.

Hat tip: GP

Telecom — The World in 2014: ICT Facts and Figures

October 29, 2014 Comments off

The World in 2014: ICT Facts and Figures
Source: International Telecommunications Union

The World in 2014: ICT Facts and Figures features end 2014 estimates for ITU’s key telecommunication/ICT indicators. The brochure highlights the latest global ICT facts and trends and includes figures on mobile-cellular subscriptions, Internet use, trends of fixed and mobile broadband services, home ICT access, and more.

Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States
Source: RAND Corporation

The civil war in Syria poses a thorny problem for U.S. policymakers. The conflict has morphed from a popular uprising against an autocratic regime into a multi-sided battle involving government forces, pro-government militias, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, secular/moderate rebels, Kurdish separatists, traditional Islamist rebels, nationalist Salafi-jihadist rebels, and the transnational Salafi-jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) movement. Most neighboring states and several Persian Gulf states have sent arms and money to one or more of the factions in this war. Iran and Russia have consistently supported the Assad regime, including providing advanced weaponry, since the onset of the conflict. The outcome of the conflict will affect Middle East stability and regional political dynamics for years — perhaps decades — and could exacerbate a wider Shi’a-versus-Sunni sectarian conflict in the region.

Momentum has shifted several times during the course of the conflict. Defections from the Syrian army, rapidly growing rebel ranks, and the regime’s loss of key ground convinced many observers early on that the Assad’s demise was only a matter of time. The Assad regime has exploited rebel weaknesses and its own superior weaponry and external support to shift the momentum once again in its favor. The lineup of antagonists is complex and confused. While still seeing the Assad regime as an adversary based on its patron-client relationship with Iran and its implacable hostility toward Israel, U.S. decisionmakers are also dealing with the threats caused by the dramatic recent gains made in Iraq by ISIS and the influence it wields within the Syrian rebel movement. To examine these challenges, this perspective draws on a December 2013 RAND workshop to assess four possible future scenarios for the conflict in Syria: prolonged conflict, regime victory, regime collapse, and negotiated settlement. The authors update and reassess these scenarios based on developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 and explore the implications that each has for Syria, the region, and the United States.

CRS — Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014 (September 15, 2014)

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past U.S. military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted. The listing often contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments, especially U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with NATO or the United Nations. Most of these post-1980 instances are summaries based on presidential reports to Congress related to the War Powers Resolution. A comprehensive commentary regarding any of the instances listed is not undertaken here.

EU — People outside the labour market

October 29, 2014 Comments off

People outside the labour market
Source: Eurostat

This article analyses labour market participation in the European Union (EU), broken down by sex and age, on the basis of the results of the EU Labour force survey (EU-LFS). In 2013, the number of inactive persons as a percentage of the working age population in the EU-28 reached a new low of 28.0 %, continuing the downward trend of the previous years. This positive development is largely due to the increased participation of women in the labour market. The economically inactive population remains a heterogeneous group, e.g. as regards age, reasons for inactivity and the level of attachment to the labour market.

Russia Economic Report 32: Policy Uncertainty Clouds Medium-Term Prospects

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Russia Economic Report 32: Policy Uncertainty Clouds Medium-Term Prospects
Source: World Bank

Russia’s economy is stagnating. Increasing uncertainty has impacted investor and consumer decisions. There are substantial risks to Russia’s medium-term outlook. Economic recovery will need a predictable policy environment and a new model of diversified development. Prospects for further poverty reduction and shared prosperity are limited.

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