Even as unemployment in the United States stubbornly remains above nine percent, many companies struggle to find qualified workers. In its 2011 Talent Shortage Survey, Manpower, Inc., the staffing agency, reports that 52% of U.S. companies are having trouble recruiting essential employees, up from 14% in 2010. On the one hand, this could be a sign of a real recovery – economic growth and renewed confidence creating a surge in employer demand – but on the other hand, it could be a sign that the United States is losing its competitive edge, failing to produce graduates and school leavers who possess the attributes employers need: chiefly, literacy, numeracy, and a work ethic. The United States is hardly the only country to face such problems. Saudi Arabia, which differs from the United States in just about every way that matters, is trying to resolve its twin problems of unemployment and a lack of skills in ways that could be instructive for U.S. policy makers. [click to continue…]
For years the news media have been full of shocking reports on the abuse of women, largely though not exclusively, in Muslim countries. Sentences of flogging and death by stoning for accused adulteresses in Nigeria and Iran, and forced marriage, the burqa and the niqab, female genital mutilation, flogging and prison sentences for “immodest” attire, and “honor” killings, not just in Somalia and Afghanistan, but also in the suburbs of Paris and Birmingham. It’s a pretty grim picture.
But now comes a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of The Economist magazine, which has devised a new index that ranks economic opportunity for women in 113 countries. [click to continue…]
Last week was a busy time in Papua New Guinea. On Tuesday the Treasurer presented the 2010 budget to Parliament, and as these things tend to do it had something for everyone, most notably a 7.5 billion Kina ($3.2 billion) increase in spending and no increase in taxes. Major beneficiaries were education and government employees, whose pension benefits rose. The gap is to be funded by an expected rise in revenues from mineral royalties and taxes as the world economy recovers, and from the long-awaited natural gas boom. The agreement between ExxonMobil and the government on a $10-billion investment in a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project was signed earlier this month and the final project go-ahead will come on December 8, with construction expected to start before the New Year. In a departure from its normal budget guidelines, which call for any windfall gains from higher mineral prices to be spent on major investment projects and to pay off public debt, this year’s budget allocated over 500 million Kina for additional “priority expenditures.” It’s uncertain how quickly the multiplier effects from the LNG investment will result in higher tax revenues for government, but it’s unlikely that it will happen within the next budget cycle. Meanwhile, government plans to draw down its trust accounts in anticipation of the coming bonanza. [click to continue…]
The Castro regime in Cuba receives widespread praise for its advances in health care and literacy, and it’s true the country has life expectancy and literacy rates similar to those that prevail in rich countries, at least according to the official statistics. This is not much of an achievement, however, when one considers Cuba’s position before the 1959 revolution. Those who accept the Cuban government’s claims may have fallen for Che Guevara and Fidel chic, or may desperately want to believe that somewhere in the world socialism actually works.
In 1959 Cuba had the 22nd highest per capita income in the world, about the same as Italy’s. It had the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America and 9th lowest in the world, better than France. It had the world’s third-highest per capita concentration of physicians and dentists, above that of the U.K., and it already had 80% literacy, the third highest in Latin America. There have been incremental improvements since then, as one would expect over 40 years, but it’s an incredible achievement only in the sense that Cuba’s system of political and economic governance since 1959 would have been more likely to lead to sub-Saharan African levels of disease and illiteracy.
I’ve been exiled to Seattle for a few months (in reality, I’m taking care of a family member). While I feel disconnected from the emerging market issues that are constantly under discussion in D.C., I think a few local issues can provide lessons, or at least food for thought, for emerging markets. [click to continue…]