31 Aug 2018

Nordic Africa Institute Scholarships for Applicants Based in the Nordics 2019

Application Deadline: 8th October 2018.

To Be Taken At (Country): Uppsala, Sweden.

About the Award: The aim of the scholarship programme is to offer a 1-month stay at the Nordic Africa Institute in order to facilitate use of the Institute’s library collections on contemporary Africa (books, periodicals, newspapers, and government publications), and to create links to existing research at the Institute.

Type: Masters

  • Master students, PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers pursuing Africa-oriented studies/research in Social Sciences and Humanities and affiliated to universities and research centers in Sweden, Finland and Iceland are eligible candidates, regardless of citizenship.
  • Africa-oriented journalists and writers within the discipline of Social Sciences and Humanities in Sweden, Finland and Iceland can also apply for a scholarship.
Selection Criteria: Applications are primarily evaluated based on the outline of the research project.

Number of Awards: Not specified

Value of Award: 
  • The scholarship covers travelling expenses for the least expensive fare from residential address (in Sweden, Finland and Iceland) to Uppsala and return.
  • The scholarship holders are provided with a desk and computer in a shared office at the Institute and free accommodation centrally located in Uppsala.
  • The scholarship also include a subsistence allowance of SEK 200 per day and free photocopying up to a maximum of 1,000 copies.
  • Please note: The scholarship does not include health care insurance or other insurances.
Duration of Programme: 1 month

How to Apply: 
  • Up-to-date CV, including list of publications (if any).
  • Outline of research project, 3-5 pages:
    – Objective of the research project: The research topic should be clearly identified and contextualized within its academic discipline.
    – Method and time frame: Describe how the research project will be accomplished, state the research method, data gathering techniques and time frame.
    – Theoretical explication: A brief indication of the theoretical basis of the research project must be included.
    – The applicant should clarify what part of the research project he/she will work upon during the stay at the Nordic Africa Institute.
  • Reference: A signed letter of support from the applicant’s supervisor or head of department, which confirms current affiliation and field of research. (Scanned versions of signed support letters can be emailed by the applicant.)
Applications sent by email should be addressed to
Annika Franklin, Research Administrator, email: annika.franklin@nai.uu.se

Applications sent by post/airmail should be addressed to
The Nordic Africa Institute
Annika Franklin
P.O. Box 1703
SE-751 47 Uppsala, Sweden.

Visit Programme Webpage for Details

Important Notes: Incomplete applications will not be considered. Persons currently or previously employed by or otherwise professionally affiliated with the Nordic Africa Institute are not eligible for scholarships. Kindly also note that the application and appendices must be in English. In the extraordinary event that the Scholarship Programme does not receive full funding, applicants will be informed immediately.

World Bank/African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) PhD Scholarships for African Students 2019

Application Deadline: 15th September 2018

Eligible Countries: African countries

To Be Taken At (Country): University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa

About the Award: The Collaborative PhD Programme (CPP) of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) consists of a network of African universities that collaborate on the delivery of PhD training in economics and agricultural economics in Africa. These universities jointly develop a common curriculum, jointly enforce standards and jointly offer elective courses at residential shared facilities.
AERC, German International Cooperation (GIZ) and the World Bank are calling for fellowship applications to attend a course on Land Economics and Governance. The course is targeted at both students/faculty members and practitioners with an understanding at the second year PhD level in Economics, Agricultural Economics, Development Economics or other relevant doctoral programs, who would have an interest in continuing research on a land related topic. The course is also open to faculty from AERC partner institutions and Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa (NELGA) affiliated institutions, subject to meeting the course qualifications. It is part of capacity building efforts under the Strengthening advisory capacities for land governance in Africa (SLGA) program, being jointly implemented by the Land Policy Initiative (LPI) in UNECA, GIZ and the World Bank.
This intensive PhD course aims to help build and strengthen the analytical capacity in Land Economics and Governance in Africa, building the capacity of network universities in teaching and research in conformity to best global practices with deep African perspectives. This will be the second round of course offering, following a successful pilot in January/February 2018 at the University of Cape Town. Again, as in 2018, the course will be hosted at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa from January 7 to February 8, 2019 and will include an online preparatory course before travel to UCT. The course will be delivered by local and international experts on land related research of both academia and the World Bank,

Type: Short courses, PhD

  • Applicants must be nationals of an African country;
  • All applicants must be holders of at least a masters degree in agricultural and applied economics, or related discipline from an internationally recognized university;
  • Applicants must be enrolled in a PhD program in Africa, or be a faculty member of an African University in a AERC accredited university or a NELGA affiliated institution;
  • Possession of at least a publication or acceptance of an article for publication on land, in a refereed journal will receive special consideration.
Number of Awards: Not specified

Value of Award: Upon acceptance, flights, accommodation and per diem will be fully covered.

Duration of Program: January 7 to February 8, 2019

How to Apply: Interested applicants must submit their applications for admission directly to the AERC. Application documents can also be submitted via the AERC website at http://scholarships.aercafrica.org/ not later than September 15, 2018. These should include:
  • Signed curriculum vitae; please use the Europass CV template (http://europass.cedefop.europa.eu)
  • Certified copies of all university degree certificates
  • Certified copies of all university transcripts as necessary
  • Admission letter to a doctoral program as appropriate/proof of employment as a faculty member
  • Letter of motivation (Maximum 2 pages)
  • Two (2) recommendation letters of academic referees
  • Written commitment to take the online pre-course
AERC, in partnership with the UCT and the World Bank Research Department, will shortlist eligible
applicants and communicate with the successful awardees.

Visit the Program Webpage for Details

Award Providers: AERC and GIZ, in partnership with the World Bank Research Department.

Important Note: Female students and applicants from less privileged regions as well as candidates with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

Asia’s Shifting Alliances

Conn Hallinan

“Boxing the compass” is an old nautical term for locating the points on a magnetic compass in order to set a course. With the erratic winds blowing out of Washington these days, countries all over Asia and the Middle East are boxing the compass and re-evluating traditional foes and old alliances. 
India and Pakistan have fought three wars in the past half-century, and both have nuclear weapons on a hair trigger. But the two countries are now part of a security and trade organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with China, Russia and most of the countries of Central Asia. Following the recent elections in Pakistan, Islamabad’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has called for an “uninterrupted continued dialogue” with New Delhi to resolve conflicts and establish “peace and stability” in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Imran Khan, is a critic of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and particularly opposed to the use of U.S. drones to kill insurgents in Pakistan. 
Russia has reached out to the Taliban, which has accepted an invitation for peace talks in Moscow on Sept. 4 to end the 17-year old war. Three decades ago the Taliban were shooting down Russian helicopters with American-made Stinger missiles.
Turkey and Russia have agreed to increase trade and to seek a political solution to end the war in Syria. Turkey also pledged to ignore Washington’s sanctions on Russia and Iran. Less than three years ago, Turkish warplanes downed a Russian bomber, Ankara was denouncing Iran, and Turkey was arming and supporting Islamic extremists trying to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad.
After years of tension in the South China Sea between China and a host of Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, on Aug. 2 Beijing announced a “breakthrough” in talks between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (SEATO). After years of bluster— including ship-to-ship face-offs—China and SEATO held joint computer naval games Aug. 2-3. China has also proposed cooperative oil and gas exploration with SEATO members.
Starting with the administration of George W. Bush, the U.S. has tried to lure India into an alliance with Japan and Australia—the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or “quad”—to challenge China in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. The Americans turned a blind eye to India’s violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and dropped the ban on selling arms to New Delhi. The Pentagon even re-named its Pacific Command, “Indo-Pacific Command” to reflect India’s concerns in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. is currently training Indian fighter pilots, and this summer held joint naval maneuvers with Japan and the U.S.—Malabar 18— in the strategic Malacca Straits . 
But following an April Wuhan Summit meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi’s enthusiasm for the Quad appears to have cooled. New Delhi vetoed Australia joining the Malabar war games. 
At June’s Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore, Modi said “India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members,” and pointedly avoided any criticism of China’s behavior in the South China Sea. Given that Indian and Chinese troops have engaged in shoving matches and fistfights with one another in the Doklam border region, Modi’s silence on the Chinese military was surprising.
China and India have recently established a military “hot line,” and Beijing has cut tariffs on Indian products.
During the SCO meetings, Modi and Xi met and discussed cooperation on bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan. India, Pakistan and Russia fear that extremism in Afghanistan will spill over their borders, and the three have joined in an effort to shore up the Taliban as a bulwark against the growth of the Islamic State.
There is also a push to build the long-delayed Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline that will eventually terminate in energy-starved India.
India signed the SCO’s “Qingdao Declaration,” which warned that “economic globalization is confronted with the expansion of unilateral protectionist policies,” a statement aimed directly at the Trump administration.
The Modi government also made it clear that New Delhi will not join U.S. sanctions against Iran and will continue to buy gas and oil from Teheran. India’s Defense Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman also said that India would ignore U.S. threats to sanction any country doing business with Russia’s arms industry.
Even such a staunch ally as Australia is having second thoughts on who it wants to align itself with in the Western Pacific. Australia currently hosts U.S. Marines and the huge U.S. intelligence gathering operation at Pine Gap. But China is Canberra’s largest trading partner, and Chinese students and tourists are an important source of income for Australia. 
Canberra is currently consumed with arguments over China’s influence on Australia’s politics, and there is a division in the foreign policy establishment over how closely aligned the Australians should be with Washington, given the uncertain policies of the Trump administration. Some—like defense strategist Hugh White—argue that “Not only is America failing to remain the dominant power, it is failing to retain any substantial strategic role at all.”
White’s analysis is an overstatement. The U.S. is the most powerful military force in the region, and the Pacific basin is still Washington’s number one trade partner. In the balance of forces, Canberra doesn’t count for much. But the debate is an interesting one and a reflection that the Obama administration’s “Asia pivot” to ring China with U.S. allies has not exactly been a slam-dunk.
Of course, one can make too much of these re-alignments. 
There are still tensions between China and India over their borders and competition for the Indian Ocean. Many Indians see the latter as “Mare Nostrum” [“Our Sea”], and New Delhi is acquiring submarines and surface crafts to control it.
 However, since some 80 percent of China’s energy supplies transit the Indian Ocean, China is busy building up ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Djibouti to guard those routes. 
India has recently tested a long-range ICBM—the Agni V—that has the capacity to strike China. The Indians claim the missile has a range of 3000 miles, but the Chinese say it can strike targets 5000 miles away, thus threatening most of China’s population centers.  Since Pakistan is already within range of India’s medium range missiles, the Agni V could only have been developed to target China.
India is also one of the few countries in the region not to endorse China’s immense “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative to link Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe into a vast trading network.
A number of these diplomatic initiatives and re-alignments could easily fail.
Pakistan and India could fall out over Kashmir, and resolving the Afghanistan situation is the diplomatic equivalent of untying the Gordian Knot. The Taliban accepted the Russian invitation, but the Americans dismissed it. So too has the government in Kabal, but that could change, particularly if the Indians push the Afghan government to join the talks. Just the fact that the Taliban agreed to negotiate with Kabal, however, is a breakthrough, and since almost everyone in the region wants this long and terrible war to end, the initiative is hardly a dead letter.
There are other reefs and shoals out there.
Turkey and Russia still don’t trust each other, and while Iran currently finds itself on the same side as Moscow and Ankara, there is no love lost among any of them. But Iran needs a way to block Trump’s sanctions from strangling its economy, and that means shelving its historical suspicions of Turkey and Russia. Both countries say they will not abide by the U.S. sanctions, and the Russians are even considering setting up credit system to bypass using dollars in banking.
The Europeans are already knuckling under to the U.S. sanctions, but the U.S. and the European Union are not the only games in town. Organizations like the SCO, SEATO, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and Latin America’s Mercosur are creating independent poles of power and influence, and while the U.S. has enormous military power, it no longer can dictate what other countries decide on things like war and trade.
From what direction on the Compass Rose the winds out of Washington will blow is hardly clear, but increasingly a number of countries are charting a course of their own.

The Decade of a Rising China: 10 Years After the Financial Crisis

Jenny Clegg

It is 10 years in September since Lehman Brothers went bankrupt bringing global capitalism to the point of collapse.  Although the crash did not finally lead to a total meltdown, it triggered a slump of 1930s proportions and for most economies the last decade has been a lost decade of low growth, low investment, low productivity, marked by debt and deficit, with virtually no improvement in real incomes for the 90 per cent. 
The stand-out story of the period has to be the continuing rise of China. Initially, the economy was also badly hit by the crisis, but China was able to recover rapidly to emerge today as a major economic power, moving steadily closer centre stage in the global order.
Since 2009, the Chinese economy has nearly tripled in size, from $4,600 billion to over $12,000 billion in 2017, overtaking Japan by 2011 for the world number 2 position.  Growth at 9-10 per cent a year was rapid up to 2011, settling down over the last 6 years to a more sustainable ‘new normal’of around 7 per cent a year, still well above the world rate at 3.9 per cent.
Per capita income has grown from $3,500 in 2009 to $8,800 in 2017, a rate of between 10-15 per cent a year, putting China on course to join the ranks of the high income countries in 8 years time.  The urban population has grown by some 15 million a year with China creating 8-10 million jobs annually.  In 2017, there were 11 million new jobs compared to India’s 1 million.
As is well known, China has, since 1978, succeeded in lifting some 800 million people out of poverty. In the last five years, extreme poverty has continued to fall from 100 million to 30 million, heading towards complete elimination in 3 years.
The five year plan (2011 – 2015) stipulated minimum wages rises of 13 per cent a year.  This, together with the fall in poverty, is helping to improve income distribution and reduce inequality.
Following recovery, China has begun to change its growth pattern, shifting from reliance on low cost export manufacturing and investment, rebalancing the economy towards domestic consumption and hi-tech levels.  This bold transition shifting the very basis of the economy on to new pillars of growth is now well under way.  Trade has fallen from 37 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 20 per cent currently, whilst the consumption share of GDP has risen steadily every year since 2012. Now China’s 400 million middle income consumers are a major force in driving the world economy.
Between 2011 and 2017, the share of the traditional economic sectors–coal, iron, steel, cement–in the economy fell from 75 to 60 per cent, with energy, technology, healthcare and entertainment sectors becoming new growth drivers.  According to ILO data, labour productivity has risen 9.6 per cent a year since 2003.  Government investment is generating expansion in public infrastructure, e-commerce and high value-added electronic systems.  Service sector employment has risen from 33 to 45 per cent.
Today China has 109 companies in the Fortune Global 500, up from around 30 in 2008, and 10 in 2001.
China’s high-speed rail network exceeds 22,000 km, and has become the largest in the world, accounting for about two-thirds of the world’s high-speed rail tracks in commercial service, greatly reducing travel times across the country from days to hours.  Electricity generation continued to increase annually by over 10 per cent after 2008.
Chinese industries are not only getting closer to the technological frontier in conventional areas such as electronics, machinery, automobiles, high-speed railways and aviation, but are also driving technological innovations.  New technology sectors are taking off, including A.I.,the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, advanced energy storage, and quantum computing. Already China is challenging the developed countries’monopoly in robotics and 3D printing. The government is investing in areas such as advanced electronic chips, aviationand aviation engines.  In fact, China will soon overtake the United States as the biggest spender on R&D.
China is helping to lead the way into the new era of clean power.  It mobilises more than $100 billion per year for investment in renewable energy technologies and a nation-wide smart power grid is under continuous expansion.  By 2017, China had more than one third of the world’s wind power capacity, a quarter of its solar power, six of the top 10 solar panel makers and four of the top ten wind turbine makers.  It sold more battery-only car sales last year than the rest of the world combined.
Public social spending rose to 9 per cent of GDP in 2012, against 6 per cent in 2007.  Since 2009, China has spent $480 billion on healthcare and 95 per cent of the population has been given basic health insurance.  This is now being extended to cover all critical illnesses.  Life expectancy rose from below 75 years in 2010 to 76.7 years in 2017.  There is a minimum income standard in place for all residents, and a growing number of companies are enrolling their workers in government programs that grant industrial injury benefits, maternity leave and unemployment benefits.
Pension coverage has leapt ahead: since 2009, 89 million people have started receiving pension payments under a new rural social pension scheme. The proportion of those enrolled in a pension almost doubled between 2009 and 2012 and now around 60 per cent of those aged 60 and over, are in receipt of a monthly pension.
In terms of culture and the media, despite government controls, media content is more diversified, newspapers more various, there are numbers of current affairs and discussion programs are on air and investigative journalism is developing a certain critical edge. The film industry, which 10 years ago was nearly engulfed by fake DVDs, is experiencing a renaissance, with box office revenues close to overtaking those of the US.
On the international front, since the financial crisis, China’s growth has accounted for between 30 and 50 per cent of world growth, well exceeding the contribution of the US at less than 20 percent., and has played a major role, scarcely acknowledged but the West, in mitigating the recessionary trend.  It has become a major trading partner of over 120 countries, and now vies with the US as the top trading nation.  It is a major driver of growth in developing countries:  by 2011, its development banks were lending more to developing countries than the World Bank.
China has also begun to make its mark on the global financial architecture, moving forward step by step with the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Bank in 2010; the BRICS Bank and the announcement of the Belt and Road initiative in 2013; and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015.  In 2015, the RMB accepted by IMF as the fifth reserve currency.
The list could go on.
It is certainly not intended to deny the many shortcomings, and the costs, of China’s development – the pollution, the environmental degradation, the gross inequalities, the piling up of debt as a result of high spending and high investment, the all too many cases of poor standards and weak regulation, certain human rights violations and more.  However China clearly has come a long way in a very short time.  It is still by and large a developing country and there are great challenges ahead.  Now looking to the future, the focus is on improving the quality not just increasing the quantity of growth.
The circumstances of China’s advance have hardly been propitious.  There was a difficult leadership transition in 2012. But the external environment has also been particularly challenging.  Near recessionary conditions in the US and EU inhibited global growth for much of the decade. On top of this, erratic flows of ‘hot money – speculative capital – generated by US policies of Quantitative Easing and interest rate manipulations have contributed to booms and busts in asset markets in emerging countries, China included, causing adverse fluctuations in exchange rates.
Pressure has been piled on China in particular as the target of blame for the world’s economic problems with accusations that China exports too much, produces too much, saves too much, and is generally the cause of global imbalances and global deflation.
In the first years after the crisis, China came under pressure especially from the US to revalue the RMB. But China chose to keep its currency quite steady and instead to contribute to readjustment of global imbalances rather by rising wages and incomes than by a sharp currency movements.
After 2014, with the US Federal Reserve preparing to raise interest rates, the focus shifted to getting China to relax currency and capital controls, whilst fomenting a panic of capital flight.  With China deliberately slowing down to a ‘new normal’ growth rate, and so exposed to risk of financial weakness, capital outflows could have caused the economy to implode given the massive expansion of credit from 2009 to support investment together with problems of overcapacity.  Chinadid lose between $600 and $800 billion of its nearly $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves at this time as capital flowed out, and its stock market experienced severe fluctuations.  Nevertheless, despite predictions by the Western financial press of a ‘hard landing’, a new round of currency wars, and even another Asian Financial crisis, a Chinese crash failed to materialise.
The fact that China was by and large able to manage these adverse pressures, and outwit the speculators, must to be counted as yet another of its major achievements of the decade.
Taking all this into consideration, the charges from the US anti-China lobby that this is a result of ‘cheating’ appear as they are, entirely cynical.
It is clearly hard for any dominant power to accept the need to adjust to a rising power and avoid the ‘Thucydides trap’, but what is all the harder is for the West – the US and its allies – to acknowledge that China’s advance, in contrast to their own sluggish performances, exposes the difference between a system which chooses to bail out the banks and one which sought to bail out the economy; between one that does all it can to boost its financial sector, and one which promoted economic stimulus to boost production; between one which squeezes those poorer in the blind pursuit of profit and one which raises up the poor, organising development in a systematic way; between one that pumps out huge amounts of ‘hot money’into the world economy to play havoc with other countries’financial systems and one that offers patient capital to help others manage their financial difficulties to avoid crises.
In the last 10 years, whilst Western economies have endlessly pumped their ‘printed’money round and round the ether of financial markets in the same exhausted circles, China has become a different country and indeed the world is becoming a different place.  Yet the US remains utterly committed to blocking change to keep the world dependent on the American dollar and the American consumer even at the expense of huge trade deficits.  And now comes the trade war.
China is on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy sometime before 2030, an event which will mark a psychological turning point.  However right now, debt levels remain high and a Chinese-style crash is still possible. Can China limit, or failing this, withstand the pressures of a US trade war?  In fact, the prospects for the US-economy not that great either – the Trump tax cuts bounce may be short-lived, and the ‘America first’president may have to learn that the US and China need each other.

Alex Salmond resigns from Scottish National Party

Julie Hyland

Alex Salmond, the former Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, resigned from the party Wednesday evening, having just begun legal proceedings against the Scottish government for its conduct over an investigation into claims of sexual harassment against him.
In a statement, Salmond flatly rejected the allegations. Referring to the publication of some of the claims by the Daily Record, the former Scotland first minister said it had breached confidentiality. “It urgently needs to be established who breached that duty of confidence and why.”
SNP leader and current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had “come under pressure to suspend me” from party membership, Salmond went on, even though “Innocent until proven guilty is central to our concept of justice.”
“I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP,” he continued, and had decided to resign to “clear my name” and prevent “substantial internal division” within the SNP in the event it was forced to suspend him.
The allegations against Salmond and his decision to fight them legally placed him on a collision course with Sturgeon, his former ally, and the SNP-led Scottish government.
The two allegations of sexual harassment date from December 2013, when Salmond was first minister. But they were only lodged with the Scottish government in January this year and Salmond—who stood down as first minister in 2014—was notified of them in March.
The Scottish government’s investigations concluded last week, at which point police were informed with a view to a formal criminal investigation. In a statement, the Scottish government’s permanent secretary, Leslie Evans, said she had informed Salmond on August 22 of the conclusions of her investigation and gave him notice that she would make a “statement referring to the fact of the complaints.”
The Daily Record then ran what it said was a leaked account of one alleged incident in 2013 in Bute House—the first minister’s grace-and-favour residence—in which Salmond was accused of “touching [a] woman’s breasts and bum” in a “boozy” encounter.
Salmond’s application for a judicial review describes the Scottish government’s investigation as “grossly unfair.” Not only was he denied access to the full details of the complaints or to interview civil servants, but he had been assured that the investigation would be “totally confidential.” Evans’ decision to make the claims public, and the Record’s leak, showed this to be untrue.
In a statement issued before his resignation, Salmond said, “I have made many mistakes in my life—political and personal,” but rejected the allegations of sexual harassment, “all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous.”
For months, he had attempted to persuade the permanent secretary “that she is behaving unlawfully in the application of a complaints procedure, introduced by her more than three years after I left office,” and had sought “conciliation, mediation and legal arbitration to resolve these matters both properly and amicably,” which had been rejected.
“... [F]or whatever reason the permanent secretary has decided to mount a process against me using an unlawful procedure which she herself introduced,” he said, warning that if the court found in his favour, as he expected, “the Scottish Government will have the most serious questions to answer.”
The complaints procedure was introduced by Evans in 2017, supposedly in response to “wider concerns about harassment in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.” It followed the publication of the so-called “dirty dossier” of 40 Tory MPs leaked to Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper.
Based on largely contrived allegations, the dossier led to a witch-hunt that had all the hallmarks of political engineering. It claimed the scalps of then Conservative Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and First Secretary of State Damien Green who, as the WSWS explained, were trying to mediate bitter infighting between the pro- and anti-Brexit wings of the Tory Party. Their removal saw the consolidation of the hard-line pro-Brexit faction within the government.
Political scheming cannot be ruled out in this instance either.
Salmond, who led the SNP for more than 20 years, from 1990, is identified as the key figure in the push for Scotland’s independence from the UK. It was under his tenure that the SNP capitalised on the rightward lurch of the Labour Party to successfully and falsely associate its nationalist agenda with opposition to austerity and war.
A former oil economist, Salmond led the Scottish government from 2007 until 2014, by which time the SNP had positioned itself as the majority party in the devolved administration—enabling it to successfully push for a referendum on independence in September that year.
Salmond resigned as SNP leader after the referendum rejected independence by 55 percent to 45 percent, with Sturgeon taking his place. He was elected to the UK Parliament in 2015, but lost the seat last year.
Since then, he has retained a high public profile through his talk show on Russia Today (RT). Vowing to “battle the mainstream narrative,” it focuses on the conflict between the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations with central government over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU). It has also promoted the Catalan independence struggle, which was violently repressed by the EU and the Spanish government, leading to the imprisonment and forced exile of leading Catalan politicians.
For this, Salmond has been denounced as a “Kremlin stooge” against the backdrop of a vociferous anti-Russian campaign by the official media. Only in July, the UK broadcast regulator Ofcom ruled that RT’s “Alex Salmond Show” had breached broadcasting rules.
The ruling, which was reportedly made in response to just one complaint, was with regards to the first broadcast, which aired in November 2017. While Ofcom rejected the complaint that it had manufactured several tweets and emails, it said the communications were sent by people “connected either directly or indirectly to the production of the programme or to the presenter in some way.”
In response, RT accused Ofcom of “media orchestration” by publicising the decision without notifying it of its provisional findings and of using “a veritable sledgehammer” against what it described as a “trivial teething problem.”
Salmond has also come under attack for his advocacy of a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Scotland recorded a majority vote in favour of remaining within the EU, in contrast to England and Wales. This has led to renewed calls by Scottish separatists for another referendum on independence. Amid already febrile tensions within ruling circles over Brexit, such a prospect would create a constitutional crisis. Not only would it likely be opposed by central government, but it would also raise the possibility of Scotland opting out of the UK to pursue relations with the EU.
Sturgeon had previously said she would provide an update for plans on a second independence referendum in the autumn, while Salmond had pledged to return to frontline politics as soon as an “indyref2” was announced.
Even before the latest events, Sturgeon was forecast to face a “impossibly tough choice” when the SNP conference convenes October 7 as she sought to balance between contending views on the timing, and advisability, of a second referendum.
Salmond’s decision to resign lessens the risk of an open split at conference. But his launch of a crowd-funding appeal to help pay his legal costs is calculated to mobilise political support. Within hours of announcing the appeal, it had raised £70,000, including donations from some SNP MPs—way past the initial £50,000 target.
The entirely dubious affair underscores the contempt for democratic rights within official political circles, especially the Labour Party.
Labour and the Tories denounced Sturgeon’s argument that there was no legal basis for suspending Salmond—even under the blatantly anti-democratic complaints procedure drawn up by her government—as he holds no elected office within government or the party.
The disregard for due process was spelt out by Rhoda Grant, Women’s spokesperson for Scottish Labour, who demanded Salmond’s removal to “make clear that there is safe space for any other survivors [of sexual harassment] to come forward.”
“Decent people will rightly be furious that he is to raise money to take the Scottish government to court,” Grant complained. “Alex Salmond is abusing his power, and dragging Scotland into the gutter.”

IMF pushes for more social cuts in Ukraine

Jason Melanovski

The Ukrainian government of President Petro Poroshenko is facing a serious economic crisis as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding ever greater social cuts.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the various oligarchic bourgeois regimes that have ruled the country have accepted IMF funding in exchange for carrying out a series of “reforms,” such as the privatization of state-owned industries and elimination of government subsidies, all carried out at the expense of the working class.
The current IMF program, under which Ukraine has received only $8.7 billion of a potential $17.5 billion, is scheduled to expire in March of next year. The IMF has not released any funds to the country since April 2017.
The current sticking point is the elimination of household gas subsidies. Any rise in consumer prices would be correctly seen by Ukraine’s working class as an even further lowering of their already precarious living standards.
After initially agreeing to raise household gas prices, Poroshenko has repeatedly continued a freeze on consumer gas prices and most recently set a new deadline of September 1 for continued government subsidies.
The government argues that without an injection of funds from the IMF, the government may start defaulting on paychecks for government workers. As of July, the country had already begun delaying pension payments to retirees causing widespread dissatisfaction.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman blamed the delays on the incompetence of the country’s pension fund managers, rather than any critical drop in the stability of the Poroshenko regime, and promised an investigation.
A significant percentage of Ukraine’s elderly population relies on monthly pension payments to survive. One of the IMF’s other demands is that the country increase the retirement age, which currently stands at 60 for men and 58 for women. Any scheme to cut pensions or adjust the retirement age would be a disaster for the over 8 million pensioners in Ukraine who live on less than $50 a month and millions more preparing to retire.
In October of last year the government attempted to appease the IMF and passed a pension “reform” bill. The bill cut back on early retirements and increased the number of years workers must contribute to the pension system in order to qualify, but stopped short of raising the retirement age or cutting payments. The move was apparently not enough for the IMF as it nevertheless refused to release any more funds to the country.
The ongoing war in the Donbass the region of the country has already given the government an excuse to cut the pensions of residents in Donbass or to make it extremely difficult for refugees to obtain their payments while living elsewhere in the country. In September of last year, the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that up to 600,000 Ukrainians had lost their pensions since December 2014, most of them elderly residents in areas in eastern Ukraine not controlled by Kiev.
There is also anxiety in Kiev that Russia’s construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will cut out its position as middle-man in the transit of gas between Russia and Western Europe and deprive it of needed foreign cash. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will connect Russia directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea and is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
Naftogaz, the state-owned gas and oil company of Ukraine, is in large part only profitable thanks to the transit fees it receives from Russia as it sends gas to European countries such as Germany, which obtains 70 percent of its gas from Russia. The current transit arrangement between Russia’s Gazprom and Naftogaz is set to expire January 1, 2020, just as Nord Stream 2 is to launch.
Any losses from such transit fees would be taken out of the pockets of Ukrainian workers in the form of a rapid hike of gas prices.
Other EU members and most notably the Trump administration have criticized Germany for moving forward with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the midst of their confrontation with Moscow.
Further exacerbating Ukraine’s fiscal situation is the fact that the Ukrainian government will be facing $15 billion in foreign debt repayments between 2018 and 2020. Even if Ukraine complies with the orders of the IMF, the scheduled influx of $2 billion will simply go to paying off foreign debt rather than into pensions and the paychecks of government workers.
In addition to the demands to ramp up attacks on the working class, the IMF and Western governments constantly harangue Kiev over “corruption.” A campaign in recent months in the bourgeois press, especially in the US and Germany, has attacked the Poroshenko regime over the pervasive corruption in Ukraine—a phenomenon that has characterized the oligarchy there, as in all countries of the former Soviet Union, ever since the destruction of the USSR.
In August, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Ukraine loses $4.8 billion a year due to corruption. The country regularly ranks near the bottom in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.
In response to the criticism, Kiev in July expanded the powers of a recently created sham “anti-corruption” court, which Poroshenko himself initially opposed but then embraced when IMF cash was not forthcoming. The IMF praised the “anti-corruption” efforts but flatly refused to budge on releasing any more cash until gas prices are raised to “market levels.”
Behind the bogus “anti-corruption” campaign is the concern that the obvious corruption among the Ukrainian oligarchs and their control over much of the Ukrainian economy impede US and German business interests in the country. At the same time, the imperialist powers and the IMF are using the issue to push for further attacks on the already abysmally low living standards of the Ukrainian working class.
The Poroshenko regime’s hesitancy in fully implementing the IMF demands is rooted in its fear of an uncontrollable explosion of working class anger. In July, miners from Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine struck over the government failure to pay out more than $107 million promised to support the country's troubled coal mines.
Miners at the mine “Kapital’naya” went on strike, demanding that they be paid their salaries from May and June. According to Life.Ru, as of mid-July the government owed the miners over $41.6 million in salary payments. Protests and demonstrations by miners also took place in the Lviv region in West Ukraine and in the capital in Kiev.
In May, workers struck at the western Ukrainian metallurgical factory ArselorMittal Krivoi Rog, which produces railroad tracks, demanding better working conditions and wages. The average monthly salary in Ukraine is currently around $300. There exists a vast chasm between the country’s ruling oligarchic elite (as of 2015, Poroshenko had a net worth of $720 million) and the Ukrainian working class.
Under these socially explosive conditions, Poroshenko is well aware that his government’s obvious servitude to the IMF would likely result in the elimination of his already slim chances for reelection in next year’s presidential elections.

French, British boats clash over English Channel scallops amid Brexit crisis

Alex Lantier

The “scallop war” that erupted Tuesday morning between French and British fishermen in the English Channel is an unintended byproduct of the Brexit crisis. Coming amid growing concern that London and the European Union (EU) may fail to reach a friendly Brexit settlement, it is a warning of the many unexpected conflicts that could erupt, amid the relentless stoking of nationalism by the ruling elites on both sides of the Channel.
On Tuesday, 40 smaller French boats and five British fishing vessels clashed violently, throwing rocks and smoke bombs and ramming each other. Dimitri Rogoff, the president of the Normandy regional fishermen’s committee, recounted the naval clash on Tuesday to Le Figaro: “Around 40 ships put to sea at night to denounce British fishermen who are pillaging the scallop fields. The French went to clash with the British and prevent them from working. There was contact.”
The British ships withdrew from the area in the Seine Bay as they risked being surrounded, and the French coast guard allegedly refused to intervene.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, said, “We are advising all parties to be calm, as from the video clips, some vessels are manoeuvring very dangerously. … The deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt.”
Deas echoed calls from British fishermen for the Royal Navy to be dispatched to French waters, in an echo of the 1958–1976 “cod wars” between Britain and Iceland, during which the two countries’ navies rammed each others’ vessels to try to seize cod fishing grounds around Iceland. Deas told the BBC: “This is well beyond legal behavior. We have asked the British Government to intervene at a diplomatic level but also to provide protection for our vessels.”
For now, the British and French governments are trying to downplay the incident. Asked about the matter, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a negotiated settlement: “I think it’s important we see an amicable solution to what has happened in the Channel. It’s what we want and it’s what France wants, and we will be working on that.”
George Eustice and Stéphane Travert, the British and French ministers of agriculture, have discussed the clashes. In France, Europe1 radio noted, “Stéphane Travert has not yet spoken on this sensitive issue—unsurprisingly, as European regulations put France in the wrong in this case.”
Nonetheless, the clash highlights how the prospect of Brexit is dangerously inflaming longstanding economic tensions between the European powers. Fifteen years ago, to prevent over-fishing, France unilaterally limited the scallop fishing season for French fishermen to October 1–May 15. Under EU rules, however, British and Irish boats were not subject to French national regulations. Therefore, in French waters outside the territorial exclusion zone within 12 nautical miles of the French coast, British and Irish ships continued legally harvesting scallops year-round.
After similar clashes over scallops in 2012, agreements had been signed to limit conflicts between the fishermen, as the French objected to the British ships’ fishing in summer and accused some British ships of also illegally fishing in French territorial waters. T alks on this year’s agreements broke down, however, as Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) looms next March.
While British Prime Minister Theresa May is calling for a negotiated “soft Brexit” maintaining substantial ties with the EU, a “hard Brexit” or a “no-deal Brexit” with no commercial agreements reached between London and the EU would see Britain exit EU fisheries agreements, as well.
Statements from the scallop fishermen make clear the issues behind the clash are still unresolved.
From Normandy, Rogoff bitterly complained, “For the British, it’s open bar: they fish when they want, where they want and as much as they want. We don’t want to prevent them from fishing. But they should at least wait until October 1 so we can all share it together!” He added that fishermen in Normandy expect Brexit to keep British vessels from fishing in the area: “Normally, after 29 March 2019, they will be considered an external power and will no longer have access to these zones.”
French fisherman working in small, 15-meter boats also complain about the ecological impact of British boats twice their length, that dredge large numbers of scallops and undermine attempts to manage the scallop population. One British fisherman told the Guardian off the record: “Dredging is an awful kind of fishing. Not all fishermen want to be dredgers. It leaves the marine environment in a terrible mess.”
Whether or not London and Paris cobbles together a settlement of the scallop dispute, the incident points to the bitter, nationalist mood in the media and political establishment in the run-up to Brexit next March, and the potential for even more violent conflict. The British Daily Telegraph forecast, “The scallops row is just the beginning: Brexit will trigger a full-blown fish war with the EU.”
With EU-British relations and hundreds of billions of euros in EU-British trade at stake, financial markets and ruling circles are on edge. After French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared on Monday that Paris is preparing for a “no-deal Brexit,” EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s apparently more favorable statement sent the pound up 1.2 percent on Wednesday. Barnier promised London a post-Brexit “partnership with Britain such as has never been with any third country” and indicated that the EU might give Britain more time to negotiate a deal.
The pound fell subsequently as Barnier walked back his statement, meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and ruling out “à la carte” UK access to EU markets.
While French media reported British Twitter postings calling for the Royal Navy to open fire on French fishing boats, Sébastien Jumel, the Stalinist mayor of the French coastal city of Dieppe, wrote a letter to Travert backing the French fishermen. He wrote, “Our French fishermen set up traditional fishing methods that respect natural resources. But they increasingly face British-flagged fishing vessels, some over 30 meters long, that carry out massive and irresponsible industrial fishing, dangerously eroding sea resources.”
With French fishermen getting up to 40 percent of their catch in British waters, however, a no-deal Brexit would have broad, unforeseen economic repercussions in France, as well. Last year, Travert warned a fisherman’s conference in Sète: “If on 30 March 2019, by some misfortune, the United Kingdom decides to suddenly cut its ties to the European Union, without a negotiated withdrawal and therefore a transition period, the consequences will be brutal and immediate.”

Turbulence hits emerging markets as Argentina’s central bank hikes interest rates to 60 percent

Nick Beams

After a brief respite, turbulence has returned to so-called emerging markets. The Argentine central bank raised interest rates to 60 percent yesterday to try to halt the slide in the peso. The Turkish lira also fell, moving toward the record lows it reached earlier this month.
The Argentine central bank’s move came after the country’s president, Mauricio Macri, delivered a YouTube video revealing that the government had asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to accelerate payments from a $50 billion package it arranged in May to shore up the government’s budget. So far, the IMF has only disbursed $15 billion.
Macri said the decision to seek the speed-up of payments “aims to eliminate uncertainty” in the face of “new expressions of lack of confidence in the markets, specifically over our financing capacity in 2019.”
Instead of bringing stability, the announcement sent the peso plunging, a fall accelerated by the IMF’s delayed response. It was nine hours before IMF managing director Christine Lagarde issued a statement that “stressed my support for Argentina’s policy efforts and our readiness to assist the government.”
The Argentine currency has lost half of its value this year and has fallen to a record low against the US dollar, after dropping by almost 16 percent yesterday.
The sell-off in the peso was accompanied by a renewed drop in the Turkish lira, which had recovered some of its value after a plunge earlier this month. It fell by as much as 5 percent against the US dollar. The mounting global instability was underscored by a slide in the FTSE “emerging markets” index, which dropped by 1.3 percent, its biggest decline in three weeks, and a 1 percent fall in JPMorgan’s emerging market currency gauge to a record low.
The dramatic drop in the Argentine peso is an expression of the demand by the global financial elites for a stepped-up assault on the working class. Alberto Ramos, the head of Latin American research at Goldman Sachs, told the Financial Times that the interest rate decision by the country’s central bank was a “bold move” but more was needed.
The Marci government would have to end what Ramos labelled its “gradualism” in cutting the budget deficit. It needed, he insisted, to accelerate spending cuts. “This is a battle that the central bank will not be able to win alone,” he said. “They need a fiscal shock. It’s politically difficult but it’s the least costly option.”
In its statement issued on Wednesday, the IMF said that in “consideration of the more adverse market conditions, which had not been fully anticipated in the original program with Argentina, the authorities will be working to revise the government’s economic plan with a focus on better insulating Argentina from the recent shifts in global financial markets, including through stronger monetary and fiscal policies and a deepening of efforts to support the most vulnerable in society.”
Years of bitter experiences in Argentina and around the world have established the meaning of “stronger fiscal policies.” It is code for deepening attacks on the working class, notwithstanding the call to support the “most vulnerable.”
The head of research at investment bank Balanz Capital, Walter Stoeppelwerth, told the Financial Times that the IMF would likely demand tougher austerity measures. “I expect the IMF to demand an even lower primary deficit in 2019, and social unrest will undoubtedly increase,” he said. “Now we are in an old-style IMF program with a deeper recession and a large nominal devaluation.”
Millions of Argentine workers are well aware of what an “old style” IMF program means, having been plunged into poverty during the financial crisis of 2001 as a result of its dictates.
The international financial markets and institutions are delivering the same austerity message to Turkey. Its currency fell sharply this week, down by more than 11 percent to TL6.80 to the US dollar and approaching the record low of TL7.21 it reached earlier this month.
The Turkish central bank is under immense pressure to lift interest rates when it meets on September 13. On Tuesday, the international rating agency Moody’s downgraded its assessment on 18 Turkish banks and two finance companies. It warned they were “highly reliant on foreign currency funding,” rendering “the banking system particularly vulnerable to a potential shift in investor sentiment, as these foreign currency liabilities must be refinanced on an ongoing basis.”
Moody’s warned that in a “downside scenario” there was a risk of a “prolonged closure” of wholesale financial markets, forcing banks to sell off debt or seek external funding support from the government or central bank.
Voicing the opposition of international markets to the control exercised over central bank appointments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has styled himself an “enemy” of high interest rates, Moody’s pointed to the decline in the effectiveness and predictability of Turkey’s policies.
“Since the elections, the central bank has refrained from raising policy rates despite significantly increasing its inflation forecasts for this year and next. The discrepancy between the central bank’s inflation forecasts and targets and its unwillingness to pursue an appropriate policy to achieve those targets further undermines the central bank’s credibility,” Moody’s asserted.
The Indian rupee also has fallen to an all-time low against the US dollar and is expected to fall still further after a worsening of the country’s trade deficit, which hit $18 billion in July, its highest level in more than five years. The South African rand and the Brazilian real have come under pressure too in the past month.
While particular factors operate in each country, the underlying causes of the increased turbulence are rising US interest rates and the uncertainty generated by the Trump administration’s instigation of trade war and boosting of American corporate profits through massive tax cuts.
In a comment piece published in the Financial Times in June, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel, warned that dollar funding of emerging market economies had been in turmoil for months.
Patel said the moves by the US Federal Reserve to cut its balance sheet, combined with the increase in the issuing of US debt to finance the tax cuts, would “absorb such a large share of dollar liquidity that a crisis in the rest of the dollar bond markets is inevitable.”
The turbulence goes beyond “emerging market” economies. This week the Wall Street Journal published an article noting that currency traders were watching Australia, New Zealand and Canada for “signs of the sort of malaise that often hits emerging markets when the US dollar is rising.”
It said Australia’s currency, which has fallen by more than 6 percent this year, had been hit by the Reserve Bank’s reluctance to raise interest rates. A depreciating Australian dollar “could curb investor appetite for the country’s assets and raise the risk of destabilising outflows of capital.”
Household debt as a share of disposable income in Australia has reached 200 percent, putting it among the highest of all developed countries. The Journalsaid those households could be subject to a “severe shock” if the fall in the currency triggered a rise in interest rates.
While Canada has raised interest rates, worries over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a “chill” in the housing market had made investors wary.
The New Zealand dollar has fallen by 5.7 percent this year. The Journal cited a statement from the country’s central bank noting a slowdown in economic activity “that we project as temporary, but could be more prolonged.”