Will the lessons be learnt from the financial crisis in Cyprus?


This time, it is Cyprus’ turn to face a bitter financial crisis as bank depositors get hit and capital controls are imposed. 

euroDemonstrators in Athens. The roots of the eurozone crisis lie in its unwillingness to uphold fiscal discipline. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

THE financial crisis in Cyprus has again shown that over-dependence on the financial sector and an unregulated and liberalised financial system can cause havoc to an economy.

The particular manner in which a financial crisis manifests itself may be different from country to country, depending on the ways the country became financially over-reliant or over-liberalised, and also on how ever-changing external conditions affect the country.

For the past two weeks, Cyprus hit the headlines because of the rapid twists and turns of its crisis, the terms of the bailout it negotiated with its European and IMF creditors, the hit that bank depositors are forced to take, and finally the “capital controls” that the government has imposed to prevent bank runs and capital flight out of the country.

Depositors with more than 100,000 (RM396,000) could lose more than half their savings.

Bank customers can only withdraw 300 (RM1,189) daily; cashing of cheques is prohibited; transfers of funds to accounts held abroad or in other credit institutions are prohibited; transfers due to trade transactions above 5,000 (RM19,832) a day require central bank permission; the use of credit cards overseas is restricted to 5,000 (RM19,832) per account a month; and travellers can only take out 1,000 (RM3,960) or equivalent in foreign currency per trip.

These capital controls, announced on March 28, were highlighted in the media as the first to be imposed by a country belonging to the European Union.

It was like the slaying of a “sacred cow”, because the freedom to move funds out of and into the European countries had been treated almost like a human right.

But it is this total freedom for the flow of funds that has contributed or even been ultimately responsible for so many financial crises in so many countries in the past few decades.

This liberalised system of capital flows enables residents to place their funds abroad or to purchase foreign assets like bonds and shares.

It also enables foreigners to bring in funds either for short-term speculation and investment or longer-term investment and savings.

After the Second World War, capital controls were the rule: flows of funds to and from abroad were mainly restricted to activities linked to the real economy of trade, direct investments and travel.

From the mid-1970s, the liberalisation of capital flows took place in the rich economies and gradually spread to many developing countries.

The finance ministers of Brazil and of other developing countries have been protesting against the easy-money policies in rich countries that have had adverse effects on emerging economies.

When the internal or external situation changes and investor perception changes with it, the inflow of funds turns into its opposite.

The sudden outflow of funds, and depreciation of the currency, can then cause an even more devastating effect on the economy.

In the 1997-99 crisis, East Asian countries that had over-liberalised their financial system found that local banks and companies had borrowed heavily in US dollars.

When their currencies depreciated, many of the borrowers could not service their loans.

The countries’ foreign reserves dropped to danger levels, forcing them to go to the IMF for bailout loans.

Malaysia fortunately had some control over the amount local companies could borrow from abroad, which prevented it from falling into an external debt crisis.

The imposition of capital controls over outflows in September 1998 enabled Malaysia to avoid a financial crisis requiring an IMF bailout.

The immediate response from the IMF and the Western establishment was that the capital controls would destroy the Malaysian economy.

Today, the economic orthodoxy has changed, and most analysts including at the IMF give credit to Malaysia for the capital controls.

The Malaysian controls included a temporary ban on foreigners transferring their ringgit denominated funds (for example in the stock market) abroad, a limit to the funds local travellers could take out of the country, and limits to overseas investments by local companies and individuals.

Today, the IMF itself has changed its position, saying that capital controls in certain situations are not only legitimate but may also be necessary.

It has partially recognised that unregulated capital flows can cause financial instability and economic damage.

In the case of Cyprus, analysts now conclude that its growth model was flawed because it was too reliant on a bloated financial sector, having become a haven for foreign savers, especially from Russia.

But a major factor in its recent crisis was that the country’s biggest banks invested in Greek government bonds.

In October 2011, a bailout package was arranged for Greece by the European Union and the IMF.

Part of the bailout terms was that holders of Greek government bonds would take a “haircut” or loss of about 50%.

This Greek debt restructuring meant a loss of 4bil (RM15.9bil) for banks in Cyprus, a huge amount in a country whose GNP is only 18bil (RM71.4bil).

Now, it is Cyprus’ turn to be reconfigured and re-created as part of a 10bil (RM39.7bil) bailout scheme. The two biggest banks, Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank are to be drastically restructured, with the latter to be closed.

The biggest innovation designed by the European Union and IMF creditors is that the bank depositors will have to take losses. Deposits less than 100,000 (RM396,000) are to be spared, after an original plan to also “tax” them by 6.75% was cancelled after a huge outcry and the fear of contagion, with bank runs in many European countries.

The final plan is for deposits over 100,000 (RM396,000) in the two banks to take losses not by the originally planned 9.9% but by much more.

The new European policy of getting bank depositors to take a big hit in bailouts of banks will have big ramifications for public confidence in banks.

The new perception is that money put as savings in banks is no longer safe.

The question remains: will the policymakers learn the real lessons from these crises?


GLOBALTRENDS BY MARTIN KHOR

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34,000 more out of work in Eurozone


BRUSSELS: Unemployment in the eurozone remained at record highs in August and the number of people out of work climbed again, highlighting the human cost of the bloc’s three-year debt crisis.

Joblessness in the 17 countries sharing the euro was 11.4% of the working population in August, which was stable compared with July on a statistical basis, but another 34,000 people were out of work in the month, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat said yesterday.

That left 18.2 million people unemployed in the eurozone, the highest level since the euro’s inception in 1999, while 25.5 million people were out of a job in the wider 27-nation European Union, Eurostat said.

The debt crisis that began in Greece in 2010 and has spread across the eurozone to engulf Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and the much bigger economy of Spain has devastated business confidence and sapped companies’ abilities to create jobs.

A European-wide drive to cut debts and deficits to try to win back that lost confidence has led governments to cut back spending and lay off staff, while stubbornly high inflation and limited bank credit are adding to household’s problems.

Joblessness could go beyond 19 million by early 2014, or about 12% of the eurozone’s workforce, according to a new study by consultancy Ernst & Young, predicting that rate to rise to 27% in indebted Greece. That compares with 24.4% in the country in June, the latest data available.

“In this difficult environment, companies are likely to reduce employment further in order to preserve productivity and profitability,” the report said.

Eurozone manufacturing put in its worst performance in the three months to September since the depths of the 2008/2009 financial crisis, with factories hit by falling demand despite cutting prices, a survey showed yesterday.

The International Monetary Fund expects the eurozone’s economy to shrink 0.3% this year and only a weak recovery to emerge next year that will generate 0.7% growth.

But the joblessness picture also obscures wide regional variations. In Austria, unemployment is the eurozone’s lowest at 4.5% in August, a slight fall from July, while Spain has the highest rate at 25.1% in the month.

While a bursting of a real estate bubble in Spain and the end of a decade of credit-fuelled expansion in Greece account for difficulties in the Mediterranean, policymakers still face the challenge of trying to revive growth across the bloc.

The recession in the eurozone is due to the tough consolidation course in the peripheral countries, weaker global demand and the high uncertainty coming from the sovereign debt crisis,” Commerzbank economist Christoph Weil wrote in a recent research note.

Eurozone and UK central bankers will likely leave policy unchanged at their meetings this week, but both will announce additional measures to help their moribund economies before the year’s end, according to a poll. – Reuters

U.S. designs on South China Sea exposed!


BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — U.S. Senator John Kerry‘s recent statement on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has exposed the country’s selfish intentions for the South China Sea, an area where the United States has no claims to sovereignty and is not a party in disputes there.

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said during a hearing on the convention held Wednesday that China and other countries are “staking out illegal claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.”

He added that becoming a party to the treaty would provide an immediate boost to U.S. credibility “as we push back against excessive maritime claims and illegal restrictions on our warships or commercial vessels.”

As the United States turns its national security focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, its willingness to join the convention is a means to find a legal framework for the country to interfere with issues in the South China Sea and elsewhere, as well as maximize its strategic interests in political, economic and military fields around the world.

The U.S. is the only major nation that has refused to sign the treaty, which has been endorsed by 160 countries and the European Union.

The hearing was the first one on the treaty in four years, and the Obama administration and the U.S. Armed Forces are now pushing Congress to sign it.

The reason why the U.S. once refused to sign the treaty is that the treaty’s provisions will limit the free navigational rights of U.S. warships in other countries’ exclusive economic zones.

However, the U.S. attitude toward the convention is now changing.

Dr. Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs under the State Oceanic Administration, said the U.S. has realized the disadvantages of not signing the convention, which have impaired its role as a leader in global maritime issues.

Kerry said at the hearing that ratifying the treaty will lock down the favorable navigational rights that the U.S. military and shipping interests depend on every single day. It will also strengthen the country’s hand against China and others who “stake out claims” in the Pacific, the Arctic or elsewhere.

The treaty will also help U.S. companies’ oil and gas investments secure the country’s energy future as well as help secure access to rare earth minerals, which the country needs for weapons systems, computers and cell phones, among other products, Kerry added.

Kerry also said that China and other countries are “staking out illegal claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.” However, the truth is that he thought disputes in the South China Sea have affected U.S. companies’ rights to gain oil and gas resources in the region and the free navigational rights of its vessels.

Zhang said the convention is the fruit of over a decade of international negotiations and the product of the balance of different interests. It provides fundamental and principled provisions for maritime activities for the whole of mankind.

“But the convention itself cannot solve territorial disputes,” said Zhang.

She said China’s territorial claims over some islands and shoals in the South China Sea have sufficient historical evidence and legal bases, and have been recognized by the international community over a long period of time.

It is dangerous that some U.S. politicians are expanding U.S. claims and raising its degree of interference. This will aggravate regional tensions and is not conducive to resolving issues.

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BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that China will negotiate directly with relevant parties in regards to resolving disputes in the South China Sea.

“China has long been committed to safeguarding peace and stability by consulting with ASEAN nations and signing agreements, such as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. Full story

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Eurozone unemployment hits record 10.9% as manufacturing slumps to recession!


Eurozone unemployment hit a record in March, with Spain’s 24.1% rate setting the pace.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Unemployment in the eurozone rose to 10.9% in March, another sign of the broad economic weakness and possible recession across the continent.

The unemployment rate across the broader 27-nation European Union remained at 10.2% in March, according to a organization report Wednesday.

But the 17-nation eurozone unemployment edged up from 10.8% in February. The EU and eurozone rates are the highest since the creation of the common euro currency in 1999.

There are now 13 nations in Europe struggling with double-digit percentage unemployment, led by a 24.1% rate in Spain, which was a record high, and 21.7% in Greece.

The rising jobless rates are primarily blamed on the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis, which has forced governments to take tough austerity measures to cut spending.

There are 12 countries in Europe that have had two or more consecutive quarters in which their gross domestic product has dropped — a condition many economists say define a recession. Nine of the countries are in the eurozone, and three use their own currency.

The United Kingdom, which had an 8.2% unemployment rate in its most recent reading, is the largest economy now in recession.

The entire EU and and eurozone are widely believed to be in recession as well, a fact likely to be confirmed when their combined GDPs are reported on May 15.

Even some of the healthier countries in Europe are likely to meet that criteria, including Germany, the EU’s largest economy and one in which unemployment is 5.6%, the fourth-lowest rate on the continent.

German GDP declined 0.2% in the fourth quarter and many economists are forecasting another drop in the first quarter, suggesting Germany could be in recession soon.

http://i.cdn.turner.com/money/.element/apps/cvp/4.0/swf/cnn_money_384x216_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=/video/news/2012/03/08/n-job-fair-unemployment.cnnmoney

By contrast to Europe, the U.S. unemployment rate has been steadily falling, reaching 8.2% in March. The jobless rate here reached a 26-year high of 10.0% in October 2009, but it has declined in six of the last seven months, shaving almost a full percentage point off the 9.1% rate of last August.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney forecast that the rate will stay unchanged in the April jobs report this Friday, while hiring is expected to pick up to a gain of 160,000 jobs

By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney ,  Newscribe : get free news in real time

Eurozone manufacturing heads towards recession

Greece-EU

(BRUSSELS) – Gloom over eurozone manufacturing deepened in April, highlighting the impact of policies to control budgets and signalling recessionary pressures, a Markit survey showed on Wednesday.

A key index of activity based on a survey by Markit fell to almost the lowest level for three years.

Markit publishes closely watched leading indicators of economic activity and in its latest survey for its purchasing managers’ index the firm said: “The eurozone manufacturing downturn took a further turn for the worse in April.”

The adjusted manufacturing PMI figure, closely watched as an indicator of economic trends, fell to 45.9 from 47.7 in March.

A figure of below 50 points to contraction and Markit noted that “the headline PMI has signalled contraction in each of the past nine months.”

The chief economist at Markit, Chris Williamson, said: “Manufacturing in the eurozone took a further lurch into a new recession in April, with the PMI suggesting that output fell at (a) worryingly steep quarterly rate of over 2.0 percent.”

He said that “austerity in deficit-fighting countries is having an increasing impact on demand across the region” and that “even German manufacturing output showed a renewed decline.”

Williamson commented that the latest forecast from the European Central Bank “of merely a slight contraction of GDP (gross domestic product) this year is therefore already looking optimistic.”

He added: “However, with the survey also showing inflationary pressures to have waned, the door may be opening for further stimulus.”

His remarks highlight controversy over policies in many countries to correct budget deficits and heavy debt to install confidence on debt markets where governments borrow.

There are increasing warnings that the eurozone must raise economic growth, but opinions differ on the best route, with some saying that budget austerity opens the way to structural reform and competitiveness and others saying that extra stimulus is essential.

Markit said that “the April PMIs also indicated that manufacturing weakness was no longer confined to the region’s geographic periphery.”

In Germany, which has the biggest economy in the eurozone and has shown broad resilience to downturn elsewhere, Markit also noted a setback.

“The German PMI fell to a 33-month low, conditions deteriorated sharply again in France and the Netherlands also contracted at a faster rate,” it said.

Markit said: “There was no respite for the non-core nations either, with steep and accelerating downturns seen in Italy, Spain and Greece. Only the PMIs for Austria and Ireland held above the 50.0 no-change mark.”

Markit said that manufacturers reported weak demand from clients inside and outside the zone and this had hit even German companies.

The worsening outlook for eurozone manufacturing was also affecting the job market, Markit said, just as eurozone data put the unemployment rate at a record high level.

In manufacturing “job losses were reported for the third straight month in April, with the rate of decline the sharpest in over two years,” Markit said on the basis of its survey. – AFP.

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Unemployment Fuels Debt Crisis


Job-seekers wait outside a job center before opening in Madrid, Spain. Spain’s jobless rate has more than doubled since 2008 after the collapse of a real estate market that fueled a decade of economic growth. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg

Surging unemployment rates from Spain to Italy and Greece are threatening efforts to quell the region’s debt crisis and keeping bond yields close to record premiums relative to benchmark German bunds.

Joblessness is soaring as European nations reduce spending, igniting strikes and protests from Athens to Madrid. Unemployment in Spain surged to almost 24 percent, pushing the euro-region level to 10.8 percent in February, the highest in more than 14 years. Italy’s rate is at 9.3 percent, the most since 2001, hampering efforts to spur economic growth.

Deepening recessions in Italy and Spain contributed to a five-week slide in Italian and Spanish bonds as the shrinking tax base helped lead to both countries raising their deficit targets. The yield premium investors demand to hold Spanish 10- year debt over German bunds reached a four-and-a-half-month high this week.

“The higher the jobless rate, the more that has to be spent on benefits, creating the potential for a negative spiral,” said Christian Schulz, an economist at Berenberg Bank in London and a former ECB official.

Berenberg Bank predicts euro-region unemployment will peak at 11.5 percent in September, he said.

The extra yield investors demand to hold Spanish 10-year bonds rather than similar-maturity German securities was 411 basis points yesterday, compared with an average 130 during the past five years. The rate has risen more than 80 basis points this year. The spread was 376 basis points for Italy and 1,072 basis points for Portugal.

Youth Joblessness

Spain’s jobless rate has more than doubled since 2008 after the collapse of a real estate market that fueled a decade of economic growth. The country is now home to more than one third of the euro-region’s jobless and more than half of young people are out of work.

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards protested on March 29 in a general strike against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s overhaul of labor market rules and the deepest budget cuts in at least three decades that are pushing the economy deeper into its second recession since 2009.

“Spain faces formidable challenges, especially concerning youth unemployment,” European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg Wednesday.

Italy’s jobless rate rose to the highest in more than a decade in February and the International Monetary Fund forecast on April 17 that unemployment will reach 9.9 percent this year. Italian bonds reversed morning gains yesterday after the government cut its growth forecasts and abandoned a goal to balance the budget next year.

Estimate Revisions

Italy’s gross domestic product will contract 1.2 percent this year, more than twice the previous forecast, and the deficit will end next year at 0.5 percent, more than the 0.1 percent previously forecast. The Italian announcement came six weeks after Rajoy abandoned Spain’s deficit goal for next year.

Joblessness in both countries may worsen as the recession deepens and rigid labor market laws are overhauled. Rajoy passed in February a plan to make it cheaper for employers to let workers go, while Italy gave companies more leeway to fire workers without fear of court-ordered reinstatements.

“High unemployment means a very dissatisfied electorate and makes it difficult to get stuff done,” said Padhraic Garvey, head of developed market debt at ING Groep NV in Amsterdam. “It makes it significantly more difficult to pass austerity measures and exacerbates a difficult situation.”

Rajoy’s Challenges

Rajoy probably will face further unrest if he’s forced to implement more budget cuts to meet ambitious deficit goals. His government has now pledged to reduce the shortfall to 5.3 percent of GDP in 2012 from 8.5 percent in 2011 and by more than 2 percentage points next year to get within the EU’s 3 percent limit. Despite a raft of austerity last year, the country achieved a deficit reduction of less than 1 percentage point.

Falling joblessness in Germany underscores the widening gap between the resilience of the euro-region’s largest economy and the so-called periphery. The nation’s adjusted jobless rate slipped in March to a two-decade low of 6.7 percent, according to the statistics office. While the 17-member euro-region economy will shrink 0.4 percent in 2012, Germany’s economy probably will grow 0.7 percent, according to economists’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.

“The divergence between Germany and the other economies is here to stay,” said Christoph Rieger, head of interest-rate strategy at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “It provides a structural reason for spreads to stay wider, regardless of what other progress is made on containing the crisis.”

Greek Elections

In Greece, where official data showed unemployment climbed to 21 percent in January, elections scheduled for May 6 may produce a hung parliament, raising questions about the nation’s ability to implement its austerity measures. The nation’s 2 percent bond due in February 2023 trades at about 25 cents on the euro.

In Portugal, where the government forecasts the unemployment rate will average 13.4 percent this year, up from 12.7 percent in 2011, Soares da Costa SGPS SA, Portugal’s third- biggest publicly traded construction company, said it’s expanding abroad and eliminating jobs at home, where it faces a slump in government infrastructure spending.

“High and rising unemployment is likely to impact at a political level and may make the reforms more difficult to undertake,” said Eric Wand, a fixed-income strategist at Lloyds Banking Group Plc in London. “If the political desire to reform comes in to doubt, then the market wouldn’t like that. There’s good scope for the crisis to get worse in the near term, the economies are still on pretty shaky ground and there’s a lot of political risk.”Daniel Tilles at dtilles@bloomberg.net.

WTO rules U.S. unfair subsidies for Boeing illegal


The U.S. is hailing a World Trade Organization ruling on illegal Boeing subsidies as a victory. (Roslan Rahman/AFP Reuters

The World Trade Organization has ruled that U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing received $3 billion to $4 billion in illegal subsidies in the form of federal research grants and local tax breaks, the top U.S. trade official said Monday.

But U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk called the decision “a tremendous victory” for the United States because he said a separate WTO panel ruled last year that European governments provided $18 billion in subsidized funding for Airbus.

“It is now clear that European subsidies to Airbus are far larger — by multiples — and far more distortive than anything that the United States does for Boeing,” Kirk said in a statement.

“The United States is ready to address all of the WTO findings, and we expect Europe to do the same. Airbus is a mature, highly capable company with ready access to commercial financing. It doesn’t need the launch aid that European governments are continuing to provide,” he added.

The WTO appellate body ruling on Monday faulted the United States for research funded by NASA and the Department of Defense that benefited Boeing and for tax breaks granted by the state of Washington and city of Wichita, Kansas.

The United States will have six months to comply with the ruling, once it is formally adopted this month, Kirk said.
Read the rest of this entry »

Trade war looms over EU tax


Global Trends By MARTIN KHOR

This week, 26 countries will meet to organise retaliation against the EU over its move to tax airlines for their emissions. This may be the first salvo in dangerous trade wars fought over climate change.

A TRADE war is looming over the European Union’s move to impose charges on airlines on the basis of the greenhouse gases they emit during the planes’ entire flights into and out of European airports.

Many countries whose airlines are affected – including China, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil and the United States – consider this to be unfair or illegal or both.

Since their protests have not yielded results, officials of 26 countries are meeting in Moscow this week to discuss retaliatory action against the EU.

The EU’s move, which took effect on Jan 1, and the tit-for-tat actions by the offended countries, is the first full-blown international battle over whether countries can or should take unilateral trade measures on the ground of addressing climate change.

Developing countries in particular have been concerned over increasing signs that the developed countries are preparing to take protectionist measures to tax or block the entry of their goods and services on the ground that greenhouse gases above an acceptable level are emitted in producing the goods or undertaking the service.

Besides the airlines case, several other measures are being planned by the EU or by the United States that will affect the cost of developing countries’ exports.

In fact, trade measures linked to climate change may become the main new sources of protectionism.

The EU’s aviation emissions tax is thus an important test case, and this could explain the furious and coordinated response by the developing countries, which form the majority of the protesting 26 nations meeting in Moscow.

The countries are particularly angry that the EU is imposing a charge or tax on emissions from the entire flight of an airline, and not just on the portion of the flights that are in European airspace.

The EU action takes effect by including the aviation sector (and airlines of all countries) in the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

Beyond a certain level of free allowances, the airlines have to buy emission permits depending on the quantity emitted during the flights.

As the free allowances are reduced in future years, the cost to be paid will also jump, thus increasingly raising the price of passenger tickets and the cost of transporting goods, and affecting the profitability or viability of the airlines.

The China Air Transport Association has estimated that Chinese airlines would have to pay 800 million yuan (RM387mil) for 2012, the first year of the EU scheme, and that the cost will treble by 2020.

The total cost to all airlines in 2012 is estimated at 505mil (RM2bil), at the carbon price of 5.84 (RM23.30) per tonne last week, according to Reuter Thomsom Carbon Point.

Last September, when the carbon price was 12 (RM48) per tonne, Carbon Point had estimated the cost to be 1.1bil (RM4.4bil) in 2012, rising to 10.4bil (RM41.6bil) in 2020.

While this may generate a lot of resources for Europe, airlines in developing countries will in turn have to pay a lot.

There are many reasons why the concerns of the affected countries are justified, as shown by Indian trade law expert R.V. Anuradha, in her paper on Unilateral Measures and Climate Change.

Since each country has sovereignty over the airspace above its territory (reaffirmed by the Chicago Convention), the EU tax based on flight portions that are not on European airspace infringes the principle of sovereignty.

The UN Climate Convention’s Kyoto Protocol states that Annex I parties (developed countries) shall pursue actions on emissions arising from aviation through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, only Annex I countries are mandated to have legally binding targets. This UNFCCC principle is violated by the EU requirement affecting airlines from both developed and developing countries.

ICAO members have been discussing, but have yet to reach agreement on, actions to curb aviation emissions. Last October, 25 countries issued a paper in ICAO protesting against the EU measure.

While the United States has challenged the EU action in a European court, China has ordered its airlines not to comply with the EU scheme unless the government gives them permission.

In addition, retaliation measures such as imposing levies on European airlines and reviewing the access and landing rights agreements with European countries are being considered by the 26 countries.

What happens in this aviation case is significant because there are many other unilateral measures linked to climate change being lined up by developed countries.

These include the EU plan to impose charges on emissions from maritime bunker fuel, a US Congress bill that requires charges on energy-intensive imports from developing countries that do not have similar levels of emissions controls as the US, and several schemes involving labels and standards linked to emissions.

If these unilateral measures are implemented, then developing countries will really feel they are being victimised for a problem – climate change – that historically has been largely caused by the developed countries.

Moreover, this will lead to a growing crisis of both the climate change regime and the multilateral trade regime.

China’s Helping Hand for Europe


Made In China by CHOW HOW BAN

China has promised to help the EU deal with its debt problems through the stability facilities, but it should not be misread as a pledge to buy more European government bonds.

Sino-EU ties: Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang (right) talking to Barroso (left) and Van Rompuy during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. — AFP

EUROPE has played a big role in China’s economic successes throughout the past three decades. That was the main tone the European Union (EU) brought to Beijing for the China-EU Summit on Tuesday.

And China’s response was that it would offer the EU more help to overcome the eurozone sovereign debt crisis – an assurance from the economic powerhouse that the EU pretty much hoped for.

The friendly exchanges between the Chinese and EU leaders laid the foundation for the success of the summit. Sino-EU trade relations have continued to thrive amid the debt crisis in Europe, with trade volume surpassing €460bil (RM1.83 trillion) last year. Europe is China’s biggest export destination.

“Over the past decades, China has become an even greater force in regional and global affairs and its economic and social development has been immense,” European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said after the summit attended by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, his Cabinet members and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.

“Europe can only rejoice at this success. I believe that Europe can legitimately claim some parts of the success because China’s economy has greatly benefited from Europe’s open policies and open markets.

“As Europe and China are inter-connected and inter-dependent, we should work even more closely on different fronts to deepen our relations.”

He assured the Chinese leaders that the EU was doing what it takes to restore the confidence of investors and international stakeholders and its partners amid the crisis.

Wen said China was ready to help Europe deal with its debt problems but the EU would have to take its own initiatives as well as address the issues.

“China’s willingness to support the EU in dealing with its debt crisis is sincere and resolute. China will continue to join hands with the EU for mutual benefit despite the fast-changing global economic situation,” he said.

Last week, Wen had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting during her official visit to China that China would consider getting more involved in solving the debt woes in Europe, especially through the European Stability Mechanism and European Financial Stability Facility.

“Resolving the debt crisis relies fundamentally on the efforts made by the EU itself.

“We expect the debt-stricken nations, according to their own situations, to strengthen fiscal consolidation, reduce their deficits and lower their debt risks,” he said.

However, analysts said that Wen’s promise to help the EU deal with its debt problems through the stability facilities should not be misread as China’s intention to buy more European government bonds.

Speaking at a forum on Monday, Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corporation (CIC), a sovereign wealth fund tasked with managing China’s foreign exchange reserves of US$3.2 trillion (RM9.7 trillion), said Merkel expressed her hope that long-term investors like CIC would buy German, French, Italian and Spanish debts.

“Some people think that there have been some positive improvements in the eurozone debt crisis in the short-term as the EU came up with some fiscal policies. But they have not got to the root of the problem and we should be able to see the effects in June or July,” he said.

He said it would be more likely for investors to invest in infrastructure and industrial projects, which would help in the economic recovery of the European nations.

In its editorial, People’s Daily said the eurozone debt crisis stemmed from the zone’s monetary and financial systems and its flaws in economic governance and policy-making mechanism.

“The unification of the euro currency has failed to promote fiscal unification because the EU member states are reluctant to give up their control over tax revenues,” it said.

“EU politicians may have the determination to safeguard the eurozone but they do not have fiscal resources which can be channelled in a unified way to troubled nations and do not have a proper mechanism to solve the debt issue. This has resulted in a worsening of the crisis.”

During its short trip to China, besides having deeper exchanges of views on EU-China relations with the Chinese leaders, the EU delegation was also on a mission to convince Chinese scholars and investors that Europe was on the right track to come through the crisis.

“Incomplete governance and surveillance in the euro area have caused imbalances and divergences in competitiveness. The sovereign debt crisis has been a wake-up call,” Barroso said.

“But the EU has acted decisively to tackle the crisis, strengthen economic governance, stabilise public finances and implement structural reforms such as the European Stability Mechanism and European Financial Stability Facility with a combined fund of €500bil (RM1.99 trillion) as financial aid for some member states.

“Other measures aimed at creating more jobs and ensuring sustainable growth include the EU2020 Strategy, a blueprint which will get the economy back on track over the next eight years with education, research and innovation as key drivers.

“In my view, what Europe has been doing, particularly during the most recent period, constitutes a basis for investors to regain confidence in Europe.”

Eurozone unemployment hits new record


The euro sculpture at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt Unemployment is at the highest rate since the euro was launched in 1999

The jobless rate in the 17 countries that use the single currency was 10.4% in December, unchanged from November’s figure which was revised up from 10.3%.

Some 16.5 million people were out of work in the eurozone in December, up 751,000 on the year before.

The highest unemployment rate remains in Spain (22.9%), while the lowest is in Austria (4.1%).

Unemployment has been rising throughout 2011, as the debt crisis in the region has continued. In December 2010, the unemployment rate in the euro area was 10%.

Investment delays

Guillaume Menuet, economist at Citigroup, said he expected the number of people out of work to increase throughout 2012.

“If you think about the direction of employment expectations that you see across various business surveys, the outlook for employment doesn’t look particularly enticing, simply because the uncertainty is very high.

“Start Quote

Much energy and argument has been spent on this agreement. It is questionable, however, whether it will have much influence on the immediate crisis. ”

image of Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt BBC Europe editor

“In many cases you find firms continuing to delay investment projects. For those that are still making profits, hiring is being frozen, and for those which are under pressure to hit results or losing money, job losses are becoming the only solution that they have,” he said.

In the 27 EU countries, the unemployment rate was 9.9% in December, with 23.8 million people out of work. November’s figure was also revised up from 9.8% to 9.9%.

The biggest increases over the past year were seen in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

The largest falls took place in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Deteriorating situation

The issue of jobs and economic growth was a key area for discussion at this week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

On Monday, figures showed that the Spanish economy shrank by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2011. It is now widely expected that Spain will enter recession in the first quarter of this year.

Also on Monday, France cut its growth forecast for this year to 0.5% from 1% “to take into account the deterioration of the economic situation”.

At the Brussels summit, 25 of the 27 member states agreed to join a fiscal treaty, aimed at much closer co-ordination of budget policy across the EU to prevent excessive debts accumulating.

The UK and the Czech Republic did not sign up to it. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he had “legal concerns” about the use of EU institutions in enforcing the treaty, while the Czechs cited “constitutional reasons” for their refusal.

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Beggars banned from French popular tourist hotspots


Paris bans beggars from popular tourist hotspots

Paris The Champs Elysées is one of three popular tourist and shopping areas in Paris decreed as no-go zones for beggars. Photograph: Alamy

The glittering Christmas window displays in Paris‘s luxury stores are often offset by a shivering person begging for coins nearby, huddled behind a cardboard sign saying “hungry”

French authorities have to decided to ban beggars from popular Christmas shopping streets and tourist hotspots over the Christmas period

Authorities in Paris have introduced a controversial ban on beggars in several parts of the French capital, in a move they say is aimed at protecting foreign visitors. Police have been ordered to arrest or fine ‘aggressive beggars’ in popular shopping locations and tourist hotspots.

The ban was first introduced on the Champs Elysée, intially from September until January, but has now been extended to next summer. Other no-go zones include the areas surrounding the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, as well as the Louvre museum and Tuileries Gardens.

The ban is said to target beggars organised by Mafia gangs. Three hundred cases of illegal activity, including fraudulent money making petitions, have already been reported over the past three months on the Champs Elysée.

The move has faced criticism from the Paris’ socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. He says it is a ‘PR stunt’ designed to stigmatise part of the population. He added that fighting poverty with repression and fines at such a time when the government is failing its own obligations to house vulnerable young people and provide emergency accommodation, is shocking.

Paris bans beggars from most popular shopping and tourist hotspots

French authorities claim no-go zones aim to stop pestering of foreign visitors by ‘delinquents’ run by criminal gangs 

By Angelique Chrisafis in Paris in Paris – guardian.co.uk

With the French economy in crisis and the looming spectre of another recession, Paris’s poor and homeless people are more present than ever in doorways and metro entrances. Campaigners have demanded action on the country’s housing crisis. Instead President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched a war on beggars, setting himself against Paris’s popular mayor.

Sarkozy’s interior minister and long-time right-hand man, Claude Guéant, has issued a series of decrees banning begging around Paris’s most popular Christmas shopping and tourist spots. He says arresting and fining beggars is crucial to stop foreign visitors being pestered by begging “delinquents” run by organised mafia gangs.

The Champs Elysées was first on his list with a begging ban from September to January, which has been extended to next summer. Now two more Christmas begging no-go zones have been created: around the famous Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, as well as the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens.

Critics call it the latest round in Sarkozy’s campaign against Roma and Gypsies. Guéant claimed that the anti-begging decrees were part of a “merciless fight” against “Romanian criminality”.

He said Romanian criminals accounted for one in six appearances in Paris courts and half of those arrested were minors. The anti-begging policy targets practices such as collecting money for bogus petitions, said to be carried out by Roma girls and teenagers.

Guéant has contracted 33 Romanian police officers to help the Paris force round up beggars on the Champs Elyssés. He said of the 300 cases of illegal activity recorded in three months on the Champs Elyseés, almost all were Romanian nationals, adding that organised crime networks were “particularly cruel”.

But the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, France’s most popular politician, called it a cheap “PR stunt” designed only to “stigmatise part of the population”. He said: “Wanting to fight poverty by repression and fines is shocking at a time when the state isn’t fulfilling its obligations in housing vulnerable young people or providing emergency accommodation.”

He said Guéant was targeting some of the city’s poshest areas while ignoring real problems in other neighbourhoods.

With four months until the presidential election, Sarkozy’s party is prioritising security and crime in an effort to win back voters who have crossed to Marine Le Pen’s extreme-right Front National.

Last year, Sarkozy caused international outrage when he linked immigration to crime and promised to expel Roma migrants and destroy illegal camps. The number of Roma in France has not changed since the destructions of the camps but NGOs warn they now live in greater poverty with a climate of fear and intimidation towards them.

Anti-begging decrees have long caused controversy in France, with one rightwing mayor outside Paris criticised in 2005 for a summer ban on homeless beggars because they “smelt offensive”. Temporary anti-begging rules have been put in place in cities from Marseille to Boulogne, some challenged in court by human rights groups.

Guéant, recently dubbed “the voice of Le Pen” by the leftwing Libération, is also under fire for this latest promise to cut legal immigration to France, limiting the rights of non-EU graduates to stay in France after their studie

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