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Economics and Public Policy

Burma and the Stockholm Syndrome

There is a quickly developing sense that Burma, long an outcast in the international community, has begun a serious process of reform. It is as though the Burmese opposition, and the world behind it, are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, where a hostage comes to love the hostage taker following a small sign of kindness.
Burma’s human rights record over the past five decades has consistently been among the worst in the world. It is also one of the world’s biggest international drug suppliers.
To counter the damaging opprobrium this brings, the Burmese military-derived government has now released hundreds of political prisoners, signed a ceasefire with the country’s largest ethnic rebel group and has allowed the opposition National League for Democracy to re-form. The NLD has announced that it will challenge 23 of 48 vacant seats in by-elections to be held on 1 April.

Malaysia’s tectonic shift

The handing down of a ‘not guilty’ verdict on sodomy charges against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim indicates a tectonic shift in Malaysian politics. Following a previous overturned conviction on a related charge, the immediate outcome of Anwar’s judicial decision is significant, but its longer term implications could be profound.
In a country in which the judiciary has been used as a political tool since the late 1980s, the ‘not guilty’ decision by Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah went against expectations, even by Ibahim himself. Although the decision was widely viewed as a vindication of Anwar, it also reflects a possible break in political interference in the judiciary and, in turn, a relative weakening of what was a high level of central political control.

Conroy's milking broadband spectra - while surfer's dongles suffer!

Auctions of “property rights” are a valid way of governments extracting value for the community from public assets, such as minerals, bandwidth and oceans. A recent example is Senator Conroy’s Dec 2011 proposal to auction the 800MHz bandwidth used by Telstra and Vodafone should they not agree to the $1.4 billion fees proposed by the Minister to be paid by the two companies for renewal of their licenses in 2013.

Germany, Britain and the Euro - and the need for monetary autonomy

The Germany that engaged in the successful 1973 float of the DM, now seems to be missing the main point of that decision. That monetary autonomy is valuable.
Also odd is German backing of currency areas across very differing economies, in tandem with federal fiscal rules absent a federal government.

Inflation and threats to currencies loom large in German history and so German activism on such matters is no surprise. But what is a surprise is the evident failure to get the core issue of monetary autonomy right.

The rise of Hitler was a cataclysmic response to hyperinflation that destroyed German savings of the 1920s. German Marks traded at 67 billion to the US dollar in 1923. Notes were carried in increasing numbers of wheelbarrows, as people desperately sought scapegoats and new leadership.

Australia needs a rights-based homelessness act

Background

The Federal Government’s White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness (White Paper), proposed the introduction of new legislation that would “underpin the national response to homelessness, setting standards to deliver the best quality services possible”.

In June 2009, the Minister for Housing referred the inquiry into homelessness legislation to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth (Committee). The Committee’s terms of reference were to inquire into and report on the content of homelessness legislation.

Pakistan will want its share of (yellow) cake too

 (A version of this blog was first published in Dawn.com on 6 December 2011)
THE Labor Party at its biannual national conference which was held in Sydney 2-4 December decided by a thin majority to support the Australian prime minister’s motion to scrap the party’s nonsensical and contradictory uranium export policy banning the sale of uranium to India.
This is a welcome development.  It would appear, listening to the prime minister’s and her ministers’ comments on this issue, that the reasoning behind the change of policy was to maximise the prosperity and the strength of Australia’s relationships in the Indian Ocean region.

Moving right along: what powers do police have to ‘move-on’ protestors?

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Occupy protestors have a right to protest; police powers to move them on from public spaces should be questioned. RynChristophe/Youtube

 

When police removed a young woman’s “tent dress” this week at the Occupy Melbourne encampment, it was yet another controversial interaction between protesters and authorities.

The Euro, Germany and Currency Shocks

Few economic challenges are as potentially destabilising as threats to currencies – or exchange rates. German history, including the rise of Hitler, was a shattering response to the hyperinflation that destroyed savings in the 1920s.  Assets had been destroyed by a currency that in Nov 1923 traded at 67 billion to the US dollar. Inflation that meant money was carried in wheelbarrows; and one needed more and more barrows.
Ever since that time, German unions, businesses and households have been inflation averse to a very marked degree – which made the 1999 Euro decision understandable in non-inflationary times, but unwise given widely divergent economic conditions across Euro nations and an uneven level of fiscal discipline across many European countries.

Are people more than consumers?

Competition… at any cost?

So, Heinz has made a bit of a fuss about the growth of private-label or in-house brands in our major supermarkets. According to Fairfax publications, “William Johnson, executive chairman, CEO and president of the $US16.4 billion Pittsburgh-based Heinz, told investors the company has had to rework its strategy in Australia to cope with the growing domination of private label goods and the never-ending discounting on branded goods by the supermarket chains,” with Mr Johnson labelling Australia as the “worst market” to do business. Obviously, Johnson and other national brands should be doing everything they can to try and deal with this growth in supermarket private-label brands. It is in their interests to have as much of their product on the supermarket shelves as possible.

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