I once attended a reception hosted by the local French governor for the elites of a French colony. After about an hour of hors d’ouevres and champagne, we stood on his veranda while the Prefect presented his government’s plans for the colony. His speech went on for over and hour. The “natives” were restless. So […]
The President spoke about the uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia and Egypt, Syria and Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. He said much that was inspirational and deeply supportive of the people of those countries. Yet he never mentioned the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. All the ennobling sentiments he expressed about the ‘Arab Spring’ do […]
Pakistan is in an uproar over U.S. violations of Pakistani sovereignty. They are furious over the flight of the SEALs to Abbotabad for the Bin Laden raid and the continued U.S. missile attacks against militants in North Waziristan with inevitable civilian casualties. The U.S. is in an uproar over Pakistan’s shielding Bin Laden and other militants. U.S. Pakistan relations are at their lowest level ever. The U.S. has threatened to end more than $3 billion per year of military aid. The Pakistanis have threatened to end U.S. transit routes from Karachi through Pakistan to supply international forces in Afghanistan.
Perhaps it’s only my sense of irony. But I love the thought that Bin Laden had lived in Abbottabad since 2005. The town is only 35 miles from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The suffix “abad” means “developed by” or, better, “made fertile by.” So Islamabad, the capital built from scratch, means made fertile by Islam. Abbottabad means made fertile by Abbott. That’s Major James Abbott, a British colonial officer who founded the town in the nineteenth century.
Make no mistake. The “new” Middle East will be far more “Islamic” than it has been recently. The new regimes of the region will take many different forms. Egypt may yet become a functioning democracy “supervised” by the military. Tunisia may be a business/military elite dominated state. Libya and Yemen may take still different forms with tribal leaders the real power behind the titular ruler. But whatever forms they take, Islam will be ascendant.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power for 33 years. He likely won’t make it to 34. Not only has his own tribe in Yemen deserted him, so have his key military officers. And now, he has been abandoned by the United States, long his most ardent foreign supporter. When he goes – not if, but when – what will be the fate of his country?
Under Saleh, the statistics have been discouraging. Yemen’s annual GDP per capita is $2500, the lowest in the Middle East. Yemen has the lowest Human Development Index score for any Middle Eastern country. It also has the lowest rate of schooling in the Middle East. The average Yemeni spends only 2.5 years in school. By any number of measures, the country has the fewest opportunities for women in the Middle East.
From my Annual Forecast, dated December 7, 2011:
The population began to shrink in 2005 and the new data from the 2010 census will be released in February 2011. It will show an accelerating decline in the number of Japanese. What will increase is the number of households headed by people 60 years of age or older. In 1990, Japan claimed 10.2 million such households. In 2011, watch for the number to leap to 21.2 million households, likely comprising a full 42 percent of all households.
Why does this matter? Because, while households headed by ‘oldsters’ own some 80 percent of all household assets, Japan’s low interest rates have devastated the income generated by those assets. (The interest rates are low, of course, because of the quantitative easing instituted by the central bank.) The result is that those households have largely stopped spending. But because consumption is about 60 percent of the GDP, there has been little to drive the economy besides exports.
The strong yen cripples the competitiveness of Japan’s exporters. Their principal response has been to hire more temporary workers – without benefits – further depressing consumption and moving their production facilities out of the country – further depressing consumption. A new assembly plant in Mississippi, for example, will begin to produce Toyotas in 2011.
Sluggish growth and declining fortunes will be Japan’s fate in 2011.
But oldsters don’t riot. Besides too much wealth has been amassed. So 2011 will be a gentle year as well.
A staggering truth about the Middle East: the age of its rulers. Not just their advanced ages, but the number of years they have been rulers. Here’s the stats:
Middle East Rulers
We will look back at the second decade of this century as the Second Age of Uncertainty. The old order provided by the Soviet Union collapsed beginning in 1989, the Age of Uncertainty, Part I. Central and Eastern Europe, by and large returned to its European roots. India, deprived of its subsidies from the USSR, turned to market reforms. With Deng Xiaoping’s market strengthening tour of southern China in 1992, the world was awash with low cost labor and billions of new consumers.