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Constitutional charades poised to backstab future of democracy
Shahid Islam
 
In a country where higher courts do little of legislative interpretations, and the lower courts are mere appendages of the executives, random referring to constitutional dictates is a mockery. That mockery turns into dispirited charades when people are led to inordinately guess what the government or the main opposition party will do when it comes to sitting together to craft the formula of holding a fair, inclusive election.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
In a country where higher courts do little of legislative interpretations, and the lower courts are mere appendages of the executives, random referring to constitutional dictates is a mockery. That mockery turns into dispirited charades when people are led to inordinately guess what the government or the main opposition party will do when it comes to sitting together to craft the formula of holding a fair, inclusive election.
And, when senior ministers and leaders invoke the constitution to justify their words or actions, one is also led to believe we live in a politically perfect society where democracy, human rights and the rules of laws are observed to the letter and spirit. Are they really?
 
No talk with ‘killer’
Obaidul Qader, a senior minister and the secretary general of the ruling Awami League (AL), said on Monday, “PM will sit for a talk with the BNP chairperson if the constitution allows.” Mahubul Alam Hanif, another anger-evoking senior leader of the AL, alarmed the nation further by saying: “PM cannot sit with a killer.” These are words capable of destroying democracy in a splurge. And, they do manufacture fresh legislative ambiguity to be used as pretexts for twisting the language to serve contrived partisan interest. Political leaders sit for a dialogue to manage or resolve crisis and conflict.
Lately, the president has had a discussion with recognized political parties not because the constitution mandated him to do so. Rather, he did it because, pursuant to Article 55(4), all executive actions of the government are considered to have been taken in the name of the president.
Put simply: The nation belongs to the president who is superior to all others. He’s also the supreme commander of the armed forces. Yet, what we often hear is that the president is literally powerless to interject into the ongoing charades that are destined to degenerate into a major constitutional crisis prior to the next general election. That interpretation of the ‘presidential powerlessness’ is culled from Article 48(3), which depicts the limit of the president’s executive powers to appointing the prime minister and the chief justice only, and all other actions he takes must have the consent of the prime minister. What it implies in reality is that the bucks and the blames drop on the president’s table for all that the executives do, and he, in reality, is unwilling or incapable of doing anything without the consent of the PM.
It also denotes the miserable lacking of checks and balances in a society where the PM does everything, as other dictators do, and the parliament is bereft of a higher chamber/senate to rectify, amend or stop anything not befitting to national interest.
 
Constitutionality of statecraft
More worryingly, the supreme law book of the nation is replete with so many contradictions that it alerts many experts to believing that the time has come to re-write a new constitution. For this supreme law has been battered by indiscriminate actions of parties in power; by inexperienced handlers; and by the darkest desires of leaders to cling onto power. They now invoke the constitution when it suits their desires and, by- pass it when their diabolic designs do not match the codified narratives.
To believe Mr. Obaidul Quader and his party abide by the constitution, as he rhythmically resonated lately, the very first thing to be queried is whether his party ensured, in the first place, “effective participation by the people through their elected representatives,” pursuant to Article 11 of the constitution? Are people truly represented in the incumbent parliament where majority of the lawmakers were allowed to be elected unopposed? If not, why that happened? The narrative is both convoluted and simple. If the BNP is responsible for nullifying a fair election in 2014, the government must realize that the BNP has the power to do so in the future too, unless their desires are taken into cognizance. The power of power politics is the veritable capital of those competing to govern any nation, or the world.
That often unseen variable precludes the constitution having an Article to allow the PM to talk to the BNP, and, if an Article to that effect is so badly needed, the ruling party may make one overnight; as they often do in matters suiting their desire to cling onto power indefinitely.
Be that whatever, talking must happen. That’s the demand of the masses. Had there been a law to guide the constitution of the election commission pursuant to Article 118, the president would not have to struggle so arduously with too many demands and options of too many parties, many of which are incapable of even electing one single MP to the parliament.
 
Other provisions
The laws made so far by the incumbent parliament were mostly aimed at shackling the opposition and galvanizing the ramparts of power. Then there are other major constitutional breaches that are hardly mentioned by the politicians or the media. For instance, constitution codifies in Article 22 the necessity to separate the judiciary from the executives, which the last caretaker regime had ordained. Why then the incumbent chief justice cries everyday about random executive interferences in the judicial matters? One may as well ask whether the government is in compliance with the mandate of Article 33 of the constitution that deals with arresting and detaining people and, Articles 37 and 38 that allow people and organizations the freedom of assembly and associations. Was it constitutionally permissible to stop the BNP from assembling on January 7 while the ruling party brought the entire capital to a standstill to hold its successive rallies at the same time? It’s in such a context that much in politics ought and should occur behind the scene, or through consensus between opposing parties. The constitution or any other law cannot codify everything that an evolving society needs. The context must provide the colour for decisions coming to public spotlight.
 
Fathoming BNP’s mindset
That context is layered by the intent to hold an inclusive fair election by taking the BNP into confidence. The BNP had already abstained from two consecutive elections under president Ershad­in 1986 and 1988. If the aim of the BNP is to uphold the practices of multi-party democracy introduced by its founding leader, Ziaur Rahman, it can ill afford to join an election under the incumbency of the AL regime. Not at least for two consecutive terms which the court prescribed, but were later deleted from the final rendition of the Fifth Amendment verdict that had scuttled the caretaker provision. Moreover, election laws are not part of constitutional laws that are supreme. If the election laws penalize BNP by rescinding its registration for boycotting election twice, that risk is worth taking. Commonsensical political wisdom leads one to believe that one more election without the BNP’s participation will be enough to destroy the remnants of democracy in Bangladesh, to throw a deadly spanner on whatever rules of law is apparently prevailing, and to create unbridled chaos that no one can control. The blame for such a setback will fall squarely on the PM who had grabbed all the power of the nation, hidden and transparent.
For such reasons, we must counsel once again that, if the PM loves her country, which we still believe she does, she should dine and talk to devils if needed, to preserve supreme national interests, as astute and arcane politicians often do. A good, warm handshake between the two warring leaders of the nation will endow the PM with more patriotic flavours than her ongoing attempts to perform the impossibility of consigning the BNP to the dustbin of history. For history shows, makers of history are not extinguishable. They bounce back from ashes like a Phoenix.

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Rising chaos & indiscipline in the education sector

Faruque Ahmed
 
As country’s education system shows growing sign of chaos and loss of proper direction at a time when the government itself is making the situation worse by taking controversial steps to mislead the nation. One of such incidents shows how the government is allowing English Medium Schools to realize huge tuition fees, because it is sharing part of the higher fees with the government in the form of VAT collection. Another one shows the government’s utter failure to properly secure printing of schools textbooks and distribute them to students.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
As country’s education system shows growing sign of chaos and loss of proper direction at a time when the government itself is making the situation worse by taking controversial steps to mislead the nation. One of such incidents shows how the government is allowing English Medium Schools to realize huge tuition fees, because it is sharing part of the higher fees with the government in the form of VAT collection. Another one shows the government’s utter failure to properly secure printing of schools textbooks and distribute them to students.
Yet another incident shows how the University of Science and Technology, Chittagong (USTC) has enrolled over 1200 MBBS students without proper registration putting their career to serious risks. Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC) has refused to register them for violation of admission rules taking 400 students each in three batches instead of only 75.
 
Govt.’s unacceptable role
It appears all such problems are seriously damaging the education system mainly because of arbitrariness of the authorities concerned. There is lack of accountability and transparency within every institution. And money and misuse of power remain the major denominator in all such problems.
Most major dailies published a news item on January 15 on how English Medium Schools are realizing higher tuition fees. It said a two-Judge bench of the High Court in its full verdict last week has asked the government to immediately stop English Medium Schools from collecting excessive fees.
It reminded the authorities that it is duty bound to act on the earlier short order of the court delivered on December 12 last. In that verdict the court had declared collection of higher tuition fees as illegal and discriminatory by English medium schools.
The matter of the fact is that as the government is realizing VAT on the tuition fees, has become a beneficiary and it is now reluctant to act on the court order in the first place to stop realizing higher tuition fees. What appears highly unacceptable is that the government has in fact accepted such schools as business enterprises and brought them under VAT coverage instead of forcing them to reduce fees and run like normal schools.
The High Court verdict came to protect public interest following a writ petition of some guardians who challenged the higher fees. To many it is highly regrettable that when the government has the duty to ensure private schools and colleges are functioning properly and the cost of education is affordable, it is rather siding with such schools realizing exorbitant fees and itself accepting a part of it as VAT.
Such elite schools feel free to raise tuition fees in absence of any law and guidelines on how to fix tuition fees. The court has also asked the authorities concerned to make law and rules of business in this regard.
 
Horrendous mistakes in text books
Interestingly, English Medium Schools put impressive advertisements in the media during admission season and parents send their children to such schools for better grooming and good education. They pay five to ten thousands taka per month and while the government was expected to rein in such arbitrariness; it has rather joined hands with them. In fact such schools run by wealthy people are nothing but well cared business houses in the name of fostering education.
Meanwhile, horrendous errors in textbooks for school children are simply scandalous. A graffiti in the Bangla book for first grade students which went viral in social media showed illustration of a goat trying to eat mangoes from a tree. The minister has sharply protested it as a ‘shotoshop’ image to tarnish the image of the government.
But some other mistakes appear also highly derogatory. The illustration of a girl asking for an ‘Orna’, a long scarf, beside the O-sounding Bangla letter has been slammed by critics as gender discriminatory. Besides, ‘Paraninda Bhalo Na’ - the Bangla slogan that was translated into ‘Do not Heart Anybody’ is nonsense with wrong spelling. The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) authorities gave approval for printing. There are many more such mistakes to show how poorly literate persons are running the NCTB.
Not only proofreaders, editors on the board appear equally ignorant and incompetent. Many believe the government has appointed these persons possibly on political consideration without looking at their competence. Now it has to bear the blame.
The Minister said the work on primary textbooks was done in a hurry and there was delay in sending the texts for print because of conditions imposed by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. But it can’t be answers for such mistakes crept into the text.
 
A tempestuous education sector
Two officials of the NCTB have been made OSD initially putting the blame on their shoulders. But some organizations have rightly blamed the education minister and departmental seniors calling them to resign. A total of 85 eminent persons in a joint statement alleged that the government has twisted this year’s school textbooks to serve its propaganda purpose politically. Cover paper of books contain unacceptable political slogans.
The signatories to the statement include Ahmed Rafique, Kamal Lohani, Jatin Sarker, Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Syed Hasan Imam, Hasan Azizul Hoque and Dr Ajoy Ray.
They claimed that it was a planned move to turn the country’s education into a communal one. The changes brought in the textbooks prove that the government has compromised with the communal quarters. Claiming there is a political motive behind the changes, they said, discrimination and division have been upheld between man and woman through ‘disgusting mistakes’.
“Our children have to be enlightened with the culture of non-communalism, but the government is hindering the path by including reactionary, narrow-minded and communalist elements in the textbooks,” they said.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid has however assured that steps would be taken against those responsible for the mistakes after receiving the probe report. “Those responsible for gaffe in textbooks for school-goers will not be spared,” he said.
Over 40 million school students were given more than 360 million textbooks and other school materials from the first day of 2017. The textbooks riddled with mistakes will be called back, he said.
On the chaotic condition of the MBBS students, it appears that the university has a ceiling of admitting only 75 students per year, but 400 were admitted in three batches violating all rules and norms. There are around 600 students with them from India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives and six other countries. They can’t do internship or become medical practitioner without BMDC registration.
 
Blame game can’t solve
Many of the foreign students have already contacted their embassies concerned in Bangladesh. Health and Family Welfare Minister Mohammad Nasim blamed the varsity for breaking the rules.
“We have given them [USTC] chance several times but they have not corrected themselves. The situation has become horrible now.”
He however indicated that problems of the foreign students will be solved. USTC Registrar said they got a letter from the government in 2015 to admit 75 students every year. There was no restriction on admission of students before that. After getting the letter, the varsity has not admitted excess students.
Referring to registration of the 1,200 students, he said, “We are trying to solve the problem through discussion with the BMDC.”
The controversy only shows like in other cases, there is also no discipline where arbitrariness is dominating the scene.

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Silk route back in business: China train rolls into London
After 16 days and 7,456 miles, the locomotive’s arrival heralds the dawn of a new commercial era.
Tracy McVeigh
 
When the East Wind locomotive rumbles into east London this week, it will be at the head of 34 carriages full of socks, bags and wallets for London’s tourist souvenir shops, as well as the dust and grime accumulated through eight countries and 7,456 miles.
The train will be the first to make the 16-day journey from Yiwu in west China to Britain, reviving the ancient trading Silk Road route and shunting in a new era of UK-China relations.
Full Story
Tracy McVeigh
 
When the East Wind locomotive rumbles into east London this week, it will be at the head of 34 carriages full of socks, bags and wallets for London’s tourist souvenir shops, as well as the dust and grime accumulated through eight countries and 7,456 miles.
The train will be the first to make the 16-day journey from Yiwu in west China to Britain, reviving the ancient trading Silk Road route and shunting in a new era of UK-China relations.
New economic geography
Due to arrive on Wednesday, the train will have passed through China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before crossing under the Channel and arriving in the east end of London at Barking rail freight terminal.
Faster than a ship, cheaper than a plane, the East Wind won’t be quite the same train that left Yiwu on 2 January. Differing rail gauges in countries along the route mean a single locomotive cannot travel the whole route. But the journey still marks a new departure in the 21st-century global economy. The new train, which will start to run weekly while demand is tested, is part of China’s One Belt, One Road policy – designed to open up the old Silk Road routes and bring new trade opportunities, said Prof Magnus Marsden, an anthropologist at Sussex University’s School of Global Studies, who has been studying the trading patterns in Yiwu. China Railway has already begun rail services to 14 European cities, including Madrid and Hamburg. As a result, Yiwu’s markets are now loaded with hams, cheese and wine from Spain and German beer is available on every corner.
“It’s a new economic geography,” he said. “This is the first train to the UK, but very much part of a new type of commercial route. The commodities are small. It’s not the big corporates who will be using this train, so it’s very much in the tradition of the Silk Road, giving opportunities for those who are in fact the inheritors of those ancient traders today.” Yiwu is a gigantic bazaar, he said, where traders from all over the world congregate. The goods brought to Britain by the East Wind are not as exotic as the peacocks and gemstones that were once transported along the Silk Road, which ran through Europe and Eurasia’s historical dynasties and empires. The trading route, thought to have been established in around 200 BC, brought the west textiles, exotic foods, paper making – and probably the Black Death.
 
‘East Wind’ to change trade pattern
Everything from chairs to illicit drugs were sent back the other way. On one occasion China threatened Queen Victoria that it would stop exporting her favourite rhubarb to England if she didn’t do something about the British opium trade. “Yiwu made its name internationally as a city in which traders could buy affordable commodities in bulk,” said Marsden. “The city’s early trade was mostly with markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe. From the sprawling container markets of the former Soviet Union to the bazaars of the Middle East, commodities purchased in Yiwu have both made and unmade people’s lives. These products have contributed to the demise of local industries, yet have also had a hand in the resurrection of great trading cities that had fallen into decline, the Black Sea port of Odessa in Ukraine, or Sulaymaniyah in Iraq being such examples.”
Today Yiwu’s streets are among the most cosmopolitan in the world, full of traders from Colombia, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Pakistan, India, Syria, Angola and Ukraine, and could now be attracting a few from the UK as well.
In Barking there is great excitement over the arrival of the East Wind, the name of which references the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, who famously said: “The east wind will prevail over the west wind.”
“The new service has a very quick transit time,” operations director, Mike White, told the Railway Gazette. “We believe this is going to change the way a lot of forwarders and shippers view their imports and exports for China.”

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Illegal immigrants in Assam-a time bomb

Shamsuddin Ahmed
 
Bare facts and figures belied the Indian claim that Bangladeshis had illegally crossed over the border, especially to the northeast state of Assam, and living there to the annoyance of the government. A Guwahati report on November 17 quoted Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju as saying that two crore Bangladeshis have migrated to India, mostly to Assam.
Full Story
Shamsuddin Ahmed
 
Bare facts and figures belied the Indian claim that Bangladeshis had illegally crossed over the border, especially to the northeast state of Assam, and living there to the annoyance of the government. A Guwahati report on November 17 quoted Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju as saying that two crore Bangladeshis have migrated to India, mostly to Assam.
An earlier report had said that Indian government in 2004 estimated the number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh at five million.
 
Baseless allegation
Such fantastic and imaginary figures dished out by the government sources had encouraged All Assam Students Union (AASU) to demand of the government for immediate steps to detect and deport the illegal immigrants. Government yielded to the pressure. From 1985 to 2012, 2442 Muslims were forcibly pushed to Bangladesh. In the recent past a group of 10 Muslims were sent to Bangladesh through the Karimganj border More were waiting similar fate.
It is none other than Dr Amiya Sharma, an economist working for the Northeastern Development Finance Corporation, who belied the claim of illegal migration of Bengali Muslims. Giving statistics, he showed the living condition in Bangladesh was far better than in Assam where minority Muslims were subjected to persecution and harassment. Writing under the heading: Where does Assam Stand? Sharma said in 2002, “It is also important to look at ourselves in comparison to our neighbours. China has a per capita income (UNDP Human Development Report figures for 2001) of $ 911 while India has $ 462 and Thailand has $1874. Even Bangladesh has per capita income of $ 350 which means that it is far above that of Assam’s.”
“In any case since the relative position can be assumed to be correct, given the common base it can be assumed to be correct that Bangladesh has a per capita income higher than that of Assam. Someone who has spent about three weeks in rural Bangladesh also believes that the picture in Bangladesh does appear better than Assam’s,” added Sharma.
It is said that when illegal migrants were eating into the economy of Assam and some other parts of the Northeast India, Bangladesh is developing quietly and steadily. Living condition of Bangladesh compared to Assam can be gauged from the economic index in terms of life expectancy, literacy, infant mortality, safe drinking water availability etc.
 
Economics of migration
The situation of Bangladesh was far better than in Assam and some other states of India. Life expectancy in Bangladesh at birth was male 71 years and female 75.4 as against male 58.96 and female 60.87 in Assam. Infant mortality rate in Assam was 83 (compared to 69 for all India).
This is rather striking because among the major states numbering 15, only four states such as Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh have higher female infant mortality rate than in Assam. And then we think that there is comparatively less male bias in the Assam. This being the situation, why Muslims from Bangladesh would venture to migrate to Assam? The fundamental rule of economic migration is rooted in common sense that they leave conditions of underdevelopment and vulnerability. They do not walk across an area or a country which is worse than the place they are leaving or where they will face hostility and persecution.
Reports say verification and updating of National Citizens’ Registration was continuing in Assam. Allegations were widespread that officials were religiously biased during the investigation of the cases referred to by Foreigners Tribunal.   Clearance is hardly available without greasing the palms of relevant officials. Tribunals have declared over 38,000 people in the state as illegal immigrants. Most of them have gone missing or absconding for fear of being caught and detention in camps before being pushed back to Bangladesh. Over one lakh petitions were pending in the Tribunals many of whom were likely to be declared foreigners.
The case of Mainul Mollah is an example. Tribunal declared him a Bangladeshi immigrant and ordered to the detention camp from where he is to be pushed to Bangladesh. Assam High Court upheld the verdict of the Tribunal despite valid documents showing his forefathers were residents of Assam.
 
BJP’s political vendetta
Hafiz Ahmed, a community leader told VOA that since BJP came to power in the state in May last year election, an increasing number of Indian Muslims are being targeted, even the legal Assamese Muslim citizenss. Verification of the NRC data began after the BJP formed government in the State. After the completion of verification, the government will be presented with the updated NRC—a time-bomb of potentially huge proportions that will start ticking immediately, writes the Quartz of India and questioned the government, how do you then go about deporting so many people to Bangladesh?
The question will haunt the Assam government which has committed to free Assam from illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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Obama leaves with highest rating

Jason Easley
Politicus
 
President Obama is set to leave office with the highest favorability rating of any president in 24 years.
According to Gallup, “The president will leave office with a much higher favourable rating than did his immediate predecessor, George W.  Bush (40%). Bill Clinton’s rating (57%) was similar to Obama’s, while George H.W. Bush left office in January 1993 with a slightly higher 62% favourable rating.
Full Story
Jason Easley
Politicus
 
President Obama is set to leave office with the highest favorability rating of any president in 24 years.
According to Gallup, “The president will leave office with a much higher favourable rating than did his immediate predecessor, George W.  Bush (40%). Bill Clinton’s rating (57%) was similar to Obama’s, while George H.W. Bush left office in January 1993 with a slightly higher 62% favourable rating.
Gallup began measuring presidential favorability using the favourable/unfavourable question format in 1992.”
Obama’s favoura-bility rating is eighteen points higher than his successor, Donald Trump (40%). The popularity of the Obama administration goes beyond the President. Joe Biden has a 61% favorable rating, which is 19 points higher than Mike Pence (42%).  First Lady Michelle Obama is easily the most popular political figure in the country with a 68% approval rating. Melania Trump’s favourable rating is 37%.
Barack Obama is finally getting the appreciation that he deserves for being a good to great president. It can’t hurt Obama’s favourable ratings that he is being followed in office by the human train wreck known as Donald J. Trump.
Trump is not likable, and his behaviour has made him reviled by a large segment of the United States of America. The grace, dignity, and scandal free manner in which Obama served the country will be sorely missed once people get a dose of the Trump administration. Obama deserved better throughout most of his time in office. Many Americans took him and the steady hand with which he guided the country for granted. No matter what tragedy surrounded us, Obama was there always to calmly and reassuringly reaffirm his belief in the greatness and resilience of the American people. People may not have realized it, but they will miss the competence and intelligence of Barack Obama after he leaves office.

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Stratfor 2017 annual forecast: An overview

The convulsions to come in 2017 are the political manifestations of much deeper forces in play. In much of the developed world, the trend of aging demographics and declining productivity is layered with technological innovation and the labour displacement that comes with it. China’s economic slowdown and its ongoing evolution compound this dynamic.
Full Story
The convulsions to come in 2017 are the political manifestations of much deeper forces in play. In much of the developed world, the trend of aging demographics and declining productivity is layered with technological innovation and the labour displacement that comes with it. China’s economic slowdown and its ongoing evolution compound this dynamic.
At the same time the world is trying to cope with reduced Chinese demand after decades of record growth, China is also slowly but surely moving its own economy up the value chain to produce and assemble many of the inputs it once imported, with the intent of increasingly selling to itself. All these forces combined will have a dramatic and enduring impact on the global economy and ultimately on the shape of the international system for decades to come.
 
Idealism vs. realism
These long arching trends tend to quietly build over decades and then noisily surface as the politics catch up. The longer economic pain persists, the stronger the political response. That loud banging at the door is the force of nationalism greeting the world’s powers, particularly Europe and the United States, still the only superpower.
Only, the global superpower is not feeling all that super. In fact, it’s tired. It was roused in 2001 by a devastating attack on its soil, it overextended itself in wars in the Islamic world, and it now wants to get back to repairing things at home. Indeed, the main theme of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign was retrenchment, the idea that the United States will pull back from overseas obligations, get others to carry more of the weight of their own defence, and let the United States focus on boosting economic competitiveness.
Barack Obama already set this trend in motion, of course. Under his presidency, the United States exercised extreme restraint in the Middle East while trying to focus on longer-term challenges — a strategy that, at times, worked to Obama’s detriment, as evidenced by the rise of the Islamic State. The main difference between the Obama doctrine and the beginnings of the Trump doctrine is that Obama still believed in collective security and trade as mechanisms to maintain global order; Trump believes the institutions that govern international relations are at best flawed and at worst constrictive of U.S. interests.
No matter the approach, retrenchment is easier said than done for a global superpower. As Woodrow Wilson said, “Americans are participants, like it or not, in the life of the world.” The words of America’s icon of idealism ring true even as realism is tightening its embrace on the world.
 
Erozone’s break up likely
Revising trade relationships the way Washington intends to, for example, may have been feasible a couple decades ago. But that is no longer tenable in the current and evolving global order where technological advancement is manufacturing are proceeding apace and where economies, large and small, have been tightly interlocked in global supply chains. This means that the United States is not going to be able to make sweeping and sudden changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. In fact, even if the trade deal is renegotiated, North America will still have tighter trade relations in the long term.
The United States will, however, have more space to selectively impose trade barriers with China, particularly in the metals sector. And the risk of a rising trade spat with Beijing will reverberate far and wide. Washington’s willingness to question the “One China” policy –something it did to extract trade concessions from China – will come at a cost: Beijing will pull its own trade and security levers that will inevitably draw the United States into the Pacific theater.
But the timing isn’t right for a trade dispute. Trump would rather focus on matters at home, and Chinese President Xi Jinping would rather focus on consolidating political power ahead of the 19th Party Congress. And so economic stability will take priority over reform and restructuring. This means Beijing will expand credit and state-led investment, even if those tools are growing duller and raising China’s corporate debt levels to dangerous heights.
This will be a critical year for Europe. Elections in the pillars of the European Union — France and Germany — as well as potential elections in the third largest eurozone economy — Italy — will affect one another and threaten the very existence of the eurozone. As we have been writing for years, the European Union will eventually dissolve. The question for 2017 is to what degree these elections expedite its dissolution. Whether moderates or extremists claim victory in 2017, Europe will still be hurtling toward a breakup into regional blocs.
 
Conflicts may be subdued
European divisions will present a golden opportunity for the Russians. Russia will be able to crack European unity on sanctions in 2017 and will have more room to consolidate influence in its borderlands. The Trump administration may also be more amenable to easing sanctions and to some cooperation in Syria as it tries to de-escalate the conflict with Moscow. But there will be limits to the reconciliation. Russia will continue to bolster its defenses and create leverage in multiple theaters, from cyberspace to the Middle East. The United States, for its part, will continue to try to contain Russian expansion.
As part of that strategy, Russia will continue to play spoiler and peacemaker in the Middle East to bargain with the West. While a Syrian peace settlement will remain elusive, Russia will keep close to Tehran as U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate. The Iran nuclear deal will be challenged on a number of fronts as Iran enters an election year and as the incoming U.S. government takes a much more hard-line approach on Iran. Still, mutual interests will keep the framework of the deal in place and will discourage either side from clashing in places such as the Strait of Hormuz.
The competition between Iran and Turkey will meanwhile escalate in northern Syria and in northern Iraq. Turkey will focus on establishing its sphere of influence and containing Kurdish separatism while Iran tries to defend its own sphere of influence. As military operations degrade the Islamic State in 2017, the ensuing scramble for territory, resources and influence will intensify among the local and regional stakeholders. But as the Islamic State weakens militarily, it will employ insurgent and terrorist tactics and encourage resourceful grassroots attacks abroad.
The Islamic State is not the only jihadist group to be concerned about. With the spotlight on Islamic State, al Qaeda has also been quietly rebuilding itself in places such as North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and the group is likely to be more active in 2017.
 
Shifting markets in 2017
Crude oil prices will recover modestly in 2017, thanks in part to the deal struck by most of the world’s oil producers. (Notably, no country will fully abide by the reduction requirements.) The pace of recovery for North American shale production will be the primary factor influencing Saudi Arabia’s policy on extending and increasing production cuts next year. And though it will take time for North American producers to respond to the price recovery and to raise production, Saudi Arabia knows that a substantial rise in oil prices is unlikely. This means Saudi Arabia will actively intervene in the markets in 2017 to keep the economy on course for a rebalance in supply, especially in light of its plan to sell 5 percent of Saudi Aramco shares in 2018.
Higher oil prices will be a welcome relief to the world’s producers, but it may be too little, too late for a country as troubled as Venezuela. The threat of default looms, and severe cuts to imports of basic goods to make debt payments will drive social unrest and expose already deep fault lines among the ruling party and armed forces.
Developed markets will also see a marked shift in 2017, a year in which inflation returns. This will cause central banks to abandon unconventional policies and employ measures of monetary tightening. The days of central banks flooding the markets with cash are coming to an end. The burden will now fall to officials who craft fiscal policy, and government spending will replace printing money as the primary engine of economic growth.
Tightening monetary policy in the United States and a strong U.S. dollar will shake the global economy in the early part of 2017. The countries most affected will be those in the emerging markets with high dollar-denominated debt exposure. That list includes Venezuela, Turkey, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia. Downward pressure on the yuan and steadily declining foreign exchange reserves will meanwhile compel China to increase controls over capital outflows.
 
Some progress likely despite tumult
Calm as markets have been recently, steadied as they were by ample liquidity and by muted responses to political upheaval, they will be much more volatile in 2017. With all the tumult in 2017, from the threats to the eurozone to escalating trade disputes, investors could react dramatically. Asset prices swung noticeably, albeit quickly, in the first two months of 2016. 2017 could easily see multiple such episodes.
The United States is pulling away from its global trade initiatives while the United Kingdom, a major free trade advocate, is losing influence in an increasingly protectionist Europe. Global trade growth will likely remain strained overall, but export-dependent countries such as China and Mexico will also be more motivated to protect their relationships with suppliers and seek out additional markets. Larger trade deals will continue to be replaced by smaller, less ambitious deals negotiated between countries and blocs. After all, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership were themselves fragments spun from the breakdown of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization.
Economic frustration can manifest in many ways, not all of which are foreboding. In Japan, the government will be in a strong position in 2017 to try to implement critical reforms and adapt its aging population to shifting global conditions. In Brazil and India, efforts to expose and combat corruption will maintain their momentum. India has even taken the ambitious step of setting its economy down a path of demonetization. The path will be bumpy in 2017, but India will be a critical case study for other countries, developed and developing alike, enticed by the efficiencies and decriminalized benefits of a cashless economy and who increasingly have the technology at their disposal to entertain the possibility.
 
“2017 Annual Forecast is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

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Trump’s foreign policy orientation and its future
Dr Abdul Ruff in New Delhi
 
Today’s international order is being dictated almost entirely by the US, the world’s lone super power - at least by and large. In fact, international order since the World War II, though launched by Germany, is being controlled and regulated by the US while Europe and bulk of Asian nations lend support for this arrangement made after the WW-II.
Full Story
Dr Abdul Ruff in New Delhi
 
Today’s international order is being dictated almost entirely by the US, the world’s lone super power - at least by and large. In fact, international order since the World War II, though launched by Germany, is being controlled and regulated by the US while Europe and bulk of Asian nations lend support for this arrangement made after the WW-II.
Needless to say that veto power USA enjoys has been major reason for American prowess, though there are four other states that enjoy the same power, i.e., the UK, France, Russia and China. Awkwardly, USA has misused the veto in order to shield the crimes perpetuated by the Israeli regime since its birth in 1948.
 
‘A bull in a China shop’
The US precedent wields enormous power to control not just the USA but also entire world. Donald Trump who has been elected president would assume such power from January 20 when he formally assumes the presidency in Washington as undisputed world leader. Since the day Donald Trump announced his campaign 18 months ago, he has flouted convention at nearly every turn – and so far, has come out ahead. Before assuming the post of the US president since his election, Trump has opted out of most of the long pursued practice set for presidents-elect, including sitting for regular intelligence briefings, raising questions about his interest in mastering the complex global issues.
Trump has been elected the US president to chair the world affairs when foreign policy everywhere begins to seem an elite dogma, rather than a collective choice, as a reflection of national consciousness. Arrival of Trump and victory for Brexit are seen to be negative consequence of ugly imperialism as they have crossed the limits of conventional wisdom and would “pull down the pillars” of liberal internationalism and retreat USA and EU into isolation.
World continues since the end of WW-II to be regulated by US made intentional order to which almost every big and small nations tries to adhere to, making its policies a part of US imagination. Americans weary of outsourced jobs and continuing war are entitled to ask what they are getting in return without being written off as isolationists. By repudiating American practice of exceptionalism, Trump has unintentionally invited the country to re-imagine its place in the world ­to find a vision, perhaps, one that is neither hierarchical nor conflictual. Politicians who talk about America as a “city upon a hill” can appear to be content with the status quo.
 
Enigmatic Trump
Trump asks Americans to seek more immediate victories. Consider his criticism of the war in Iraq: his signature objection is that the United States did not “take the oil” before getting out. For Trump, states are similar because they compete for the same fixed pot of resources.
One needs to work in depth to ascertain the possible polices of a man like Trump and their ramifications for the whole world, as he became famous for his contradictory rhetoric. His contradictory gibberish and torrent of hyperbolic statements during and after the election campaign has made him the most enigmatic person. Any proper analysis of foreign policy of Trump can be done only after January 20 when he assumes power at the White House as its legal custodian because after that whatever he says and does makes sense to the analysts.

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