The French Are A Law Unto Themselves. Pity About Their Tolerance Of The EU

January 30, 2009

The French Are A Law Unto Themselves. Pity About Their Tolerance Of The EU

Thomas Mathew writes: Here I am, in France, witnessing the disruption to train services that is causing a great deal of anger among those who use the trains to go to and from work. Shortly after Nicolas Sarkozy became President, he stated that it was no longer acceptable that the trade unions could hold the public to ransom and passed a law forcing the unions to run a minimum of at least two trains per main route per day during strikes. Well, the unions, being good law abiding organisations, are, naturally, complying with the new law and are doing just that at the moment – causing havoc all over the country by providing a minimal service. On the coastal railway line between St Raphael and the Italian border the SNCF train drivers strike is now into its eighth week. The locals are extremely... 

Chinese Media Ordered To Promote The ‘China Model’. Even Though The Model Is In Crisis

January 29, 2009

Chinese Media Ordered To Promote The ‘China Model’. Even Though The Model Is In Crisis

Martin McCauley writes: The Communist Party of China (CPC) is proud of its handling of the economy. The ‘China Model’ consists of a monopoly of political power for the Party and a freewheeling market economy for the masses. It has been remarkably successful. The model began to take shape in the 1980s and since then has delivered high growth rates. It has lifted over 300 million people out of poverty. The downside of the model is that the gulf in living standards between the urban and rural areas has been growing alarmingly. China is a two tier society. Beijing, Shanghai and Guandong, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces now form a rich elite. As the saying goes, economic power feeds into political power. The largest part of the huge fiscal stimulus announced last month will go to these rich... 

The Scandal With Four Labour Peers Accepting Money Becomes Even More Suspicious

January 29, 2009

The Scandal With Four Labour Peers Accepting Money Becomes Even More Suspicious

Thomas Mathew writes: The more we, at StirringTroubleInternationally, hear about the scandal surrounding the four Labour peers, who have been accused of accepting money in return for introducing changes to legislation on behalf of ‘overseas clients’, the more we suspect that there is something fishy about this whole affair. Just to remind everyone what has happened: undercover reporters from The Sunday Times, posing as ‘lobbyists’ working for foreign businessmen, had approached a number of members of the House of Lords and offered them money to help influence certain bills going through British parliament. Out of the ten Lords from different parties, who have been put through this test, four Labour peers supposedly agreed to do it. Once the story broke last Sunday,... 

Barclays Bank’s Bosses Claim That Things Are Not As Bad As They Look. Markets Rally In Response

January 28, 2009

Barclays Bank’s Bosses Claim That Things Are Not As Bad As They Look. Markets Rally In Response

Sometimes I wonder: what actually drives the financial markets? Are all of these investors and brokers and traders and analysts for real or are they just greedy money grabbing speculators, with no understanding of how things work in the real world? On Monday you could have been forgiven for thinking that collective idiocy had descended on the London Stock Exchange: banking shares rallied when the markets opened and finished the day on a high. Barclays shares went up on Monday by a staggering 73 per cent, rising from 51.2 p to 88.70 p. So that no one thinks that it spells the end of the crisis we would like to remind everyone that Barclays shares in their heyday were trading close to £15. So what on earth has triggered this magical ‘revival’ in the fortunes of Barclays and other big... 

Russia Tightens Its Grip On Uzbeki Gas. But Will It Hold?

January 28, 2009

Russia Tightens Its Grip On Uzbeki Gas. But Will It Hold?

 Martin McCauley writes: January 23rd 2009 was a red letter day for the Russian energy giants, Gazprom and Lukoil. In Tashkent, President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia signed a bilateral agreement on gas exports. It confirms Russia’s monopoly of the export of Uzbek gas. In return, Gazprom and Lukoil will now pay $305 per thousand cubic metres, almost double the present price. President Karimov stated that Uzbekistan was selling gas only to Russia. ‘It is of no concern whom Russia sells the gas on to,’ he said. ‘It is Russia’s prerogative’. The deal is very important to Gazprom. It can sell some of the Uzbek gas to Russian consumers and the rest can be sold to Europe as ‘Russian gas’. With Gazprom production... 

China Is Beginning To Dominate Military And Energy Relations With Russia

January 27, 2009

China Is Beginning To Dominate Military And Energy Relations With Russia

Martin McCauley writes: Russia is failing to meet China’s demands for energy and military hardware. Beijing is desperate to ensure long term supplies of oil and gas to feed its industries in the next ten years. Despite this, China and Russia cannot agree any deals. The main reason is price. China will simply not pay European prices for hydrocarbons. At present oil is transported by rail to China. Pipelines have to be built but Moscow does not have the money to build them. It needs loans from Beijing. The Chinese have even insisted that the pipes be manufactured in China and that Chinese engineers supervise the installation. The Russians would repay the loans by delivering oil. China has a lot of experience of such deals. Investments in African countries, for example, are repaid in this... 

Bizarre Things Are Happening In Russia. Which Means Big Changes Are Coming

January 27, 2009

Bizarre Things Are Happening In Russia. Which Means Big Changes Are Coming

You would not believe what is happening in Putin’s Russia. Strange things are happening there and it appears that the Russian leadership has entered a period when it has lost all touch with reality. We do we start? OK, let’s start with the call by the First Deputy Head of The Kremlin Administration (that would be like deputy chief of staff in the White House in the US) Vladislav Surkov to members of the ruling United Russia party to stage mass protests across the country against… the economic crisis. Yes, Mr Surkov (whose name translates into English as ‘Groundhogman’) is considered to be something of a Kremlin ideologist and regularly comes up with very weird statements about what is happening in Russia and what should be done about it. He looks like a Young... 

The Scandal Surrounding The Labour Peers Is Probably Not As Straightforward As It Looks

January 27, 2009

The Scandal Surrounding The Labour Peers Is Probably Not As Straightforward As It Looks

Thomas Mathew writes: there is something really odd about the scandal surrounding the four Labour peers who have been accused by The Sunday Times of agreeing to take cash to help change the laws in favour of some ‘overseas clients’. Reporters from the newspaper posing as ‘lobbyists’ approached the four members of the House of Lords and supposedly offered them money to help introduce amendments to bills going through parliament. The four allegedly agreed to do it. We, at StirringTroubleInternationally, greeted the revelation with a bit of scepticism. Why, you may ask. Because, first of all, reporters from The Sunday Times would have done much better by going after some of the big bankers and investigating their shady deals that are costing the country tens of billions... 

Wealth and Urban-Rural Inequality Becoming A Problem For Beijing

January 26, 2009

Wealth and Urban-Rural Inequality Becoming A Problem For Beijing

Martin McCauley writes: The richest province in China is Guandong, formerly Canton. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year was 3.4 trillion yuan ($496 billion). The second richest was Shandong province with its GDP growing last year by 13 per cent to overshoot 3 trillion yuan. The next most prosperous was Jiangsu which managed 2.5 trillion yuan in 2007. Now 13 of the 31 provinces and municipalities have GDPs which exceed 1 trillion yuan. In 2001 Guandong was the first province to exceed the 1 trillion mark, quickly followed by Shandong and Jiangsu in 2002. By 2008, Shanghai, Beijing and eight others had joined the club. Hence a new elite has emerged: Guandong, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces. Zhejiang province is knocking on the door. It is striking that neither Beijing nor Shanghai are... 

Gordon Brown Says That He Did Not See The Recession Coming. Then Why Is He Still Here?

January 25, 2009

Gordon Brown Says That He Did Not See The Recession Coming. Then Why Is He Still Here?

Thomas Mathew writes: It is official now: Britain is in the grips of a recession. Finally, after months of pretending that things were not as bad as they seemed, the government has conceded that yes, the British economy is in recession, and yes, things are really bad, just as everyone thought hey were. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confessed publicly that he did not see the crisis coming. He did not actually take the responsibility for sleepwalking into the biggest recession since the Second World War. In a typical New Labour style he said that ‘what we didn’t see, and nobody saw, was the possibility of complete market failure…’ Well, that is strange, because the money men in the City were talking about a forthcoming meltdown as far away as two and a half years ago. I... 

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