Sunday, April 19, 2009

How world economy develops as global financial crisis deepens

BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) -- As the crucial Group of 20 (G20) financial summit in London on April 2 approaches, the world economy is still struggling with its worst downturn since the 1930s.

The deepening financial crisis is biting the real economy, dragging western nations into severe slumps, and choking world trade.


Standing in the breach is the financial industry in western countries, which was blamed for triggering the crisis. Many corporations are either cutting branches, waiting for government bailout money, or preparing to announce bankruptcy. The crisis also severely hit world stock markets, with banks becoming more reluctant to lend.

Being in the center of the storm, the American financial industry witnessed a grave loss.

The American Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said last week that the nation's banks and thrifts lost 32.1 billion U.S. dollars in the final quarter of last year. That was the first quarterly deficit in 18 years, compared with the 575 million-dollar profit in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The industry's net income for 2008 plunged from 16.1 billion dollars to 10.2 billion.

Eighteen federally insured banks already have failed in the United States this year. Last year the number was 25, more than the total number of the previous five years, and up from only three in 2007.

Shares of Citigroup Inc., once the most powerful U.S. bank, have fallen below 1 dollar this month. Pummeled by the financial crisis, the group has lost more than 98 percent of its value from its peak in October 2007, and is down more than 95 percent from a year ago.

The American International Group reported this month that it lost 61.7 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of last year, the largest corporate loss in history. AIG has benefited since from more than 170 billion dollars in a federal rescue.

HSBC Holdings PLC, the largest bank in Europe, early this month reported a 70-percent drop in its 2008 profit and said it would cut 6,100 jobs as it closes its consumer loan business in the United States. It also said it would cut its dividend and not pay bonuses to top executives.

The stock market remains volatile on uncertainties concerning the global economy. In the United States, the Dow Jones industrial average dived below 6,800 on March 3, its lowest close since May 1997, losing more than 50 percent from its highest level in October 2007.

However, U.S. stocks staged their strongest rally this year on March 23 when the market was boosted by the government's latest plan on clearing bad bank assets and a larger-than-expected rise in existing home sales. The three main indexes all surged more than 6.5 percent.

In London, the FTSE index 100 slipped to a six-year-low on March 2, and a week later, Tokyo's Nikkei index closed at its lowest level in more than 26 years on renewed worries about the Japanese and global economy.


The financial industry took a hard hit but so did the real economy.

The world economy was expected to shrink between 0.5 percent and 1 percent in 2009, the first contraction in 60 years, the International Monetary Fund said this month.

According to statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department, the American economy contracted at a staggering 6.2 percent pace at the end of 2008. It was the worst showing in a quarter-century and also the second consecutive quarterly contraction.

Japan's economy shrank at a 12.1 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, the sharpest contraction in 35 years, and the third consecutive quarterly decline.

In Europe, the euro-zone economy contracted by a record 1.5 percent in the last three months of 2008, figures showed last month. It was also the third quarterly fall in a row.

Facing sharply falling exports, retreating investments and credit crunch, eastern European nations are also becoming volatile.

Amid the deepening recession, the unemployment rate in the main western economies keeps soaring.

A report from the U.S. Labor Department showed the number of workers collecting state unemployment benefits surged 122,000 during the week ending March 14, from 5.44 million the prior week. That pushed the insured unemployment rate to 4.2 percent from 4.1 percent the prior week, the highest since May 1983.

Japan, Asia's largest economy, is facing its worst recession since World War II, and the country's major auto, electronics and other companies have slashed tens of thousands of jobs. Statistics showed that the unemployment population has continued to grow since last November.

A European Union report last month forecast employment growth in the region will turn negative in 2009, with the overall employment rate contracting by 1.6 percent, or some 3.5 million jobs lost. The average EU unemployment rate was set to increase by about 2.5 percent in the coming two years. The figure might hit 10percent by the end of 2010 from 7 percent predicted for 2008, the report said.


The prolonged financial crisis and economic recession also dragged down world trade with emerging protectionism gnawing at the global economies.

Global trade will decline by about 9 percent in volume terms this year, the biggest contraction since World War II, the World Trade Organization said in a report Monday.

The contraction in developed countries will be particularly severe with exports falling by 10 percent this year, according to the WTO's annual global trade assessment report.

In developing countries, which are far more dependent on trade for growth, exports will shrink by about 2 percent to 3 percent in2009, WTO economists said in the report.

Although world trade grew by 2 percent in volume terms for the whole of 2008, it tapered off in the last six months and was well down from the 6-percent volume increase posted in 2007.

The World Bank said last week that since the beginning of the financial crisis, officials have proposed or implemented roughly 78 trade measures, according to the bank's monitoring list of trade and trade-related measures.

Of these, 66 involved trade restrictions, and 47 trade-restricting measures eventually took effect, it said.

"Economic isolationism can lead to a negative spiral of events such as those we saw in the 1930s, which made a bad situation much, much worse," World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in a statement.

WTO head Pascal Lamy on Thursday also warned that increasing restrictive trade measures could undermine efforts to revive the global economy.

"There have been increases in tariffs, new non-tariff measures and more resort to trade defense measures such as anti-dumping actions," Lamy said.

Economists said the financial crisis has yet to bottom out, and the real economy continues to slip as the global economic situation deteriorates.

Therefore, stimulus spending, market confidence, financial regulation and free trade will be key issues at the G20 summit of the world's leading developing and developed economies next week in London.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

George W. Bush to pen book about decisions

The tentatively titled “Decision Points” is due for release in 2010 by Crown

NEW YORK - Former President George W. Bush, who once famously called himself "The Decider," is writing a book about decisions.

"I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me," Bush said during a brief telephone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press from his office in Dallas.

Bush's book, tentatively (not decisively) called "Decision Points," is scheduled for a 2010 release by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. It is unusual in a couple of ways.

Instead of telling his life story, Bush will concentrate on about a dozen personal and presidential choices, from giving up drinking to picking Dick Cheney as his vice president to sending troops to Iraq. He will also write about his relationship with family members, including his father, the first President Bush, his religious faith and his highly criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.

Instead of having competing publishers bid, Bush and his representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, negotiated for world rights only with Crown Publishing, where authors include President Obama and Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Barnett used a similar strategy in working out deals with publisher Alfred A. Knopf for another client, former President Clinton.

"Proceeding in this way gets the project going promptly, avoids the time-consuming process of multiple meetings and multiple negotiations, and preserves confidentiality for all concerned," Barnett said.

Financial details were not disclosed, although publishers have openly doubted that Bush would receive the $15 million Clinton got for his memoir, "My Life."

Crown Publishing is a division of Random House Inc. and the deal was handled by Random House executive vice president and publisher at large Stephen Rubin. As head of the Doubleday Publishing Group — a division recently dismantled in a corporate realignment — Rubin released Dan Brown's mega-selling "The Da Vinci Code" and Kitty Kelley's "The Family," an unauthorized and unflattering take on the Bush dynasty.

Barnett said that Rubin and Crown had shown "great enthusiasm" and that a deal was made not long after Rubin and Crown officials met with Bush in Dallas.

The structure of Bush's current book is not unlike his "A Charge to Keep," published by William Morrow in 1999 as the then-Texas governor was preparing to run for president. In the foreword to "Charge," Bush noted that he had no interest in a comprehensive, chronological memoir.

"That would be far too boring," he wrote. "The book chronicles some of the events that have shaped my life and some of my major decisions and actions as governor of Texas."

Bush told the AP on Wednesday that he was not "comfortable with the first book, only because it seemed rushed," and that his current memoir would have "a lot more depth," thanks to his years as president. Although he didn't keep a diary while in the White House — he "jotted" down the occasional note — he said he began "Decision Points" just two days after leaving the White House and had written "maybe" 30,000 words so far.

Bush is working with research assistants and a former White House speechwriter, Chris Michel.

Once known for his reluctance to acknowledge mistakes, Bush said the book would include self-criticism, "Absolutely, yes," but cautioned that "hindsight is very easy" and that he would make sure readers could view events as he saw them.

"I want to recreate what it was like, for example, right after 9/11," he said, "and have people understand the emotions I felt and what others around me felt at the time."

Asked if he might write about the ouster of his first defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, or about his decision not to pardon Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, choices both openly disputed by Cheney, Bush said he didn't know.

"I made a lot of decisions," he said.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice in the investigation of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Bush commuted Libby's sentence and saved him from serving time in prison, but Libby remains a convicted felon.

Bush said he has read other presidential memoirs, including Ulysses S. Grants' highly praised autobiography, a book he enjoyed in part because it was "anecdotal." He said he had "skimmed" Clinton's memoir and had yet to read either of Obama's books, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."

Like Clinton, he is a fan of "Personal History," the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.

Presidential memoirs have rarely satisfied critics or the general public, with exceptions including Clinton's "My Life," a million seller despite mixed reviews, and Grant's memoirs, which didn't even cover his time in office. Bush's father also did not write a conventional memoir; he instead collaborated on a foreign policy book with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft.

George W. Bush has been talking for months about a memoir, even while he was president, and has said he wanted to give people an idea of the world as seen through a president's eyes. Publishers, noting Bush's low approval ratings and questioning his capacity for self-criticism, have been less enthusiastic, urging him not to hurry. Still, Barnett said he received calls from several publishers about a possible book.

Virtually all the top officials in the Bush administration, from Rice to political strategist Karl Rove, have either completed books or are in the midst of writing them. Cheney has said he plans a memoir and former first lady Laura Bush has a deal with Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Her book, like her husband's, is scheduled for 2010. Barnett, who represents both Bushes, said that Laura Bush's book would come out first.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Anti-Obama brickbats from left as well as right

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Opposition to President Barack Obama from Republicans is being augmented by pushback from his own Democrats as he takes on some liberal sacred cows.

There is grumbling from Obama's left flank against tax proposals in his ambitious budget, against his plans for a new military offensive in Afghanistan and over his stance towards the trade union movement.

"He has the classic task of the reformer, to get enough momentum up to overcome the inertial resistance of the status quo," Brookings Institution analyst William Galston said, identifying resistance from both left and right.

Obama Tuesday targeted one of the most powerful constituencies in the sprawling Democratic coalition -- the teachers unions.

"It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones," he said in a speech promising a world-class education system throughout the United States.

That raised the prospect of merit pay based on performance for better teachers, and dismissal for sub-par educators -- notions that have long been anathema to the National Education Association union.

Obama received scattered boos when he broached those ideas in a speech last year to the NEA, which with about 3.2 million members is the nation's biggest union for teachers.For the union movement as a whole, a critical test of Obama's intentions is looming as Congress starts debate on legislation designed to make it easier for workers to form union branches in their workplace.

Obama pledged last week to make the law a reality but it is encountering bitter resistance from employers and Republicans, who say its elimination of a secret ballot for would-be union members is an assault on democracy.

Several Democratic lawmakers also have misgivings about the "Employee Free Choice Act," as they do about Obama's 3.55-trillion-dollar budget proposal.

Ideas such as means-testing health care for richer retirees, and limiting tax deductions by higher-income earners -- potentially hurting charitable giving -- have emerged as bones of contention in the budget debate.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the objections were par for the course.

"I think most people that have seen budgets go from here to there are not surprised that different individuals with competing interests look at and see different parts of a budget -- some things they like and some things they don't like -- whether it's Democrats or Republicans," he said.

Senate budget committee chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, is balking at cuts of billions of dollars to government farming subsidies while also saying Obama's planned deficit reduction is too modest.

Chris Van Hollen, a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, said disputes over the budget were a sign of harder debates to come after Obama won narrow approval from Congress for his massive economic stimulus bill.

"There are a lot of items in the budget that would normally get a lot more attention, if we were in a normal year," Van Hollen told the Washington Post.

"They've been eclipsed by the tidal wave of the economy," he said, while adding: "They are waiting in the wings."

Then there are the growing noises of discontent over Obama's plans to send another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, while leaving a sizeable residual force of up to 50,000 in Iraq.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have both expressed surprise at the 50,000 number as Obama tries to deliver on what is an article of faith for liberal Democrats -- ending the Iraq war.

A coalition of radical groups called ANSWER is planning an anti-war march March 21 on the Pentagon, arguing "President Obama has essentially agreed to continue the criminal occupation of Iraq indefinitely."

The president will not lose much sleep over the coalition's demands. But doubts about his Afghan strategy were crystallized in a Newsweek article bearing the cover-page headline of "Obama's Vietnam."

However, assailed by the right and needled by the left, Obama may just be in a political sweet spot. Half way through his first 100 days, opinion polls give the president a lofty job approval rating of more than 60 percent.


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Friday, January 30, 2009

The 17th International Youth Leadership Conference

Disponsori oleh Pertamina dan Kodeco, pada tanggal 4-6 Januari 2009, dua mahasiswa Teknik Industri Institut Teknologi Bandung, Annisa Lifta Kurnia Dewi dan Riescha Puri Gayatri menjadi delegasi Indonesia pada The 17th International Youth Leadership Conference (IYLC) yang diadakan di Praha, Republik Cheko. The 17th IYLC yang diadakan oleh organisasi Civic Concept International dihadiri oleh 80 partisipan yang berasal 30 negara. Secara garis besar, The 17th IYLC mengangkat tema hukum dan politik dalam agenda kegiatannya

Selama konferensi partisipan dibagi menjadi kelompok – kelompok, dimana dalam satu kelompok terdiri dari 10-12 peserta yang berasal dari negara yang berbeda. Selama konferensi agenda yang dilakukan antara lain : diskusi kelompok mengenai perencanaan dan pengembangan strategi dewan keamanan PBB mengenai konflik gerakan separatis Ossetia Selatan dengan Georgia, kunjungan ke kedutaan besar, kunjungan ke gedung parlemen Republik Cheko, diskusi kelompok mengenai fungsi, posisi, dan strategi pengadilan kriminal internasional, diskusi panel dengan topik “Pemimpin yang Bertanggung Jawab”, dan “ Wanita dan Kepemimpinan”, acara resepsi dengan sponsor, partner, pembicara, dan diplomat, serta simulasi Pengadilan Kriminal Internasional mengenai kasus kejatahan Presiden Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir.

Dengan mengikuti The 17th International Youth Leadership Conference, kedua delegasi menyadari pentingnya melihat suatu masalah dari berbagai perspektif, membudayakan etos kerja internasional yang sangat disiplin agar mampu menghadapi tantangan global, memiliki kepekaan terhadap isu-isu global saat ini, dan perluasan jejaring pada masyarakat internasional.

Terkecuali Indonesia, seluruh partisipan The 17th IYLC berasal dari latar belakang pendidikan hukum dan politik. Menjadi satu-satu delegasi dari jurusan teknik, hal tersebut sangat diapresiasi oleh para partisipan dan penyelenggara IYCL. Setelah mengikuti The 17th IYLC, kedua delegasi menyadari akan kelebihan pola pikir integratif yang diajarkan oleh program studi Teknik Industri. Kesadaran ini timbul setelah melihat sebagian besar partisipan yang cenderung memandang masalah secara parsial tergantung apa yang menjadi fokus perhatiannya.

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