unemployment

Draco, the seventh-century BC Athenian legislator from whom we get the word “draconian” replaced the system of blood feud and oral law with a harsh, but transparent, written legal code. One of the provisions of Draco’s code was that any debtor whose status was lower than that of his creditor was forced into slavery. It’s hard not to think of Draco when contemplating the current to and fro between the Greek government and the “troika” of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund, representing Greece’s creditors, trying to avert a sovereign default and keep Greece from leaving, or being ejected from, the European monetary union. These discussions are more properly considered a dictation of terms rather than negotiations. [click to continue…]

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In yesterday’s New York Times Janet Yellen, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, is quoted as predicting a slow drop in the U.S. unemployment rate, now 9.7 percent, to 9.25 percent by the end of this year and 8.0 percent by the end of 2011.  This is pretty anemic in view of her forecast of 3.5% GDP growth this year and 4.5% next year, a robust performance for a mature economy, though she attributes much of this growth to reduction in inventories rather than growth in sales. Ms. Yellen doesn’t foresee a return to peak economic performance and a corresponding drop in unemployment until 2013. The cause, she says, is clear: an increase in business efficiency and labor productivity, which she says, “is here to stay.” [click to continue…]

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The Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reports that two weeks of vandalism and violence in the townships show few signs of abating and that President Jacob Zuma appears unable to do much to stop it.   Zuma was selected as ANC Party Chairman in late 2007 and won April’s Presidential Election on promises to do more to help the poor in one of the most unequal countries on Earth.  Black South Africans still reflexively support the ruling ANC, the  party that liberated them, but less enthusiastically than before, after 15 years of crime, and growing inequality. In the current protests people have held up signs saying that life was better under white rule.

In the Mail & Guardian’s words, “In the past week, scenes reminiscent of the apartheid era have returned to the townships — clouds of acrid black smoke rising from burning tyres, police turning on residents with rubber bullets, sirens wailing and — most symbolic — official buildings and vehicles being set on fire.” [click to continue…]

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It’s official: the recession has hit the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai, hard. Well, maybe not official official, but I’m convinced. It’s not always easy to tell what’s happening in that part of the world. With rampant intermingling of public and private funds and  little transparency over who owns and owes what, appearances can be deceiving.

Most of the economic and business numbers have been pretty grim, but losses can easily be moved around, as in a game of three-card monte. For every big real estate project mothballed or scrubbed during the past six months, other highly visible  projects like the Dubai Metro have continued apace, and new ones are still being announced. Even as property values started to spiral downwards and huge property companies began to look distinctly wobbly towards the end of last year, there was still so much cash sloshing around and so many big projects still being announced and built the picture was pretty unclear. [click to continue…]

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Working abroad isn’t what it used to be.

There is an old Three Stooges movie in which the boys have been sent by their company on a business trip to Mexico and receive a telegram from the head office saying they have been fired (nowadays they might be “right-sized”) and no further funds will be coming their way. There ensues a crazy hour or so in which Moe, Larry, and Curly try to sneak out of their hotel without paying, get chased by the police, and escape from jail, all punctuated with the pokes in the eye and bops on the head for which they were famous. [click to continue…]

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