So much has been written on the Sri Lankan economic crisis that the facts are by now quite well-known (see for instance C P Chandrasekhar, Frontline April 22): the massive build-up of external debt; the huge Value Added Tax concessions that pushed up the fiscal deficit and made the government borrow abroad even to spend domestically; the decline in foreign exchange earnings because of the pandemic that particularly hit tourist inflows; the downward pressure on the exchange rate which made many Sri Lankan workers choose the unofficial route to send their earnings home rather than the official route; the precipitous decline in foreign exchange reserves; the directive of the government to cut down on the use of chemical fertilizers to save foreign exchange that actually hit foodgrain output; and so on.
By Patrick Bond for Borderless HK. The Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa summit in Xiamen from September 3-5 is already inscribed with high tension thanks to Sino-Indian border conflicts. But regardless of a new peace deal, centrifugal forces within the fast-whirling world economy threaten to divide the BRICS. 1brics Beijing’s logo designers for this summit, perhaps unconsciously subversive, illustrated how the formerly overlapping, interlocking BRICS are now thin and flimsy, wedging themselves apart. Such a prospect was predictable earlier this year as a result of Donald Trump’s ascendance. Both Washington’s neo-conservative ‘Deep State‘ and the (fast-disappearing) paleo-conservatives were intent on ramping up conflict with China – though early on, BRICS splintering towards the US included not only proto-fascist India, for elites in Russia and Brazil also sought friendly relations.
By Arnie Saiki for Imipono. As we move out of 2016, let us at least acknowledge that we have become estranged from the roots of democracy. Perhaps 2017 will reveal that our participation in social media and our willingness to provide streams of data driven information to the corporate plutocracy inhabits a different space in the world with people who are on the outside. Even if social media has been a tremendous tool for digging deeper and casting wider nets, it is not a replacement for our democratic institutions or practices. For as long as the U.S has capitalized from being an anti-communist, then unipolar hegemon, we’ve never been able to really live up to the fulfillment of equitable and democratic institutions. Now, much of the world seems to be moving in that direction, whereas the largest of the advanced economies seem to be moving in the opposite: towards greater nationalism, xenophobia and isolationism. How we reflect upon 2016 and what we carry into 2017 can make all the difference in the world.
By Chris Hedges for Truthdig. Our capitalist democracy ceased to function more than two decades ago. We underwent a corporate coup carried out by the Democratic and Republican parties. There are no institutions left that can authentically be called democratic. Trump and Hillary Clinton in a functioning democracy would have never been presidential nominees. The long and ruthless corporate assault on the working class, the legal system, electoral politics, the mass media, social services, the ecosystem, education and civil liberties in the name of neoliberalism has disemboweled the country. It has left the nation a decayed wreck. We celebrate ignorance. We have replaced political discourse, news, culture and intellectual inquiry with celebrity worship and spectacle.
By Sarah Lazare in Common Dreams - As representatives of some of the most powerful countries in the world prepare to gather for their annual Group of Seven (G7) meeting, this time at a castle in the German town of Elmau, tens of thousands marched through nearby Munich on Thursday to protest the summit's politics of "neo-liberal economic policies, war and militarization, exploitation, poverty and hunger, environmental degradation, and the closing-off towards refugees." Over 34,000 people reportedly turned out for Thursday's march, with one demonstrator identified as Julia by Euronews declaring "we must not lose hope that one day the world really will be equal, and we will all have the same values." The massive protest is just one of many mobilizations, including alternative summits and direct actions, in the lead-up to the gathering of global elites, which will take place June 7 and 8.
Despite the World Bank's promises to protect the rights of indigenous people over the years, a new investigative report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including the Guardian and the Huffington Post, has found that since 2004, the World Bank funded projects including dams and power plants that has displaced 3.4 million people from their homes, off their lands, or threatened their livelihood around the globe. That is roughly the population of an entire city such as Berlin or Cape Town, or even Madrid. The 2015 meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund that just ended past weekend concluded with a free concert of Earth Day on the Washington Mall.
Last September, as Detroit residents were still in the midst of 80-degree summer weather, the city’s water department went to court. Its issue was the 27,000-some customers who were getting Detroit water but weren’t paying their bills. As of March 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) was missing about $175 million in water payments, almost $100,000 of that from residential customers who had lost their jobs or couldn’t afford the hefty water bill last summer. Residents were already paying an average of $64 per month water access. With an 8.7 percent increase in June, many unemployed residents and individuals on Social Security Income checks couldn’t afford water for cooking, washing and basic needs.
Detroit Schools Under Seige: The Canary in the Coal Mine Detroit School Board in Exile: For most of the past 15 years, Detroit public schools have been taken over by so-called Emergency Managers appointed by the governor. The elected school board, although in exile and rendered impotent, continues to fight the privatization of public schools. When schools were first taken over, they enjoyed a large surplus plus a bond and students tested at mid-range for the state of Michigan. Since the take over, Detroit schools are deeply in debt and students scores are the lowest in the nation. But, the pockets of contractors paid by the Emergency Managers bulge. This month, the School Board in Exile is taking their case to the Department of Justice.
In March, 2013, Detroit was placed under the control of an appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, despite protests from local residents. Facing a severe financial crisis, the city later filed Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. Several years prior to the emergency manager for the city, the Governor replaced the school board with an appointed manager, Robert Bob, who made cuts to the budget and closed schools. The Detroit public school board members continue to meet ‘in exile’ and protest these school cuts. We’ll speak with Lamar Lemmons, a past president and current member of the school board in exile. We’ll also speak with Miss Beulah Walker, an amazing volunteer who works with the Detroit Water Brigade bringing water to those who have had their water turned off and helping to pay their bills. Miss Beulah also volunteers helping homeless people in Detroit.
Dozens of major labor unions plan to freeze campaign contributions to members of Congress to pressure them to oppose fast-track trade legislation sought by President Barack Obama , according to labor officials. The move is part of the unions’ campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which the Obama administration is negotiating with 11 nations around the Pacific Ocean. The unions worry the trade agreement could send more jobs to low-wage countries, including Vietnam and Malaysia. Unions have opposed the TPP through demonstrations, letters to lawmakers and political ads, but withholding political contributions is a more forceful way of flexing their muscle. In the 2014 midterm elections, unions—the lifeblood of the Democratic Party—contributed about $65 million from their political-action committee, or PACs, to candidates, nearly all Democrats.
For three weeks now, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has been shaken by a wave of student protests against the neoliberalization of higher education and the lack of democratic accountability in internal decision-making. Last week, UvA staff joined the rebellion, declaring their solidarity with the students and threatening further actions if their demands are not met. With the university’s main administrative building — the Maagdenhuis — now occupied by students, the governing council has been forced into an awkward position: will it honor the demands of the academic community for greater democratization, or will it continue to obey the neoliberal logic of bureaucratic financialization? While the struggle at UvA has been mostly local and national in character, the implications of the issues raised by its students and staff reach far beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
These charter, or “model” cities, significantly expand on the idea of free trade areas as they currently exist in places like Panama and Singapore. Unlike the zones in those countries, the ones planned in Honduras will not only be economically independent, but they'll be exclusively governed by corporations, both local and international, which will create and enforce their own laws in the territories ceded to them by the state. These Special Economic Development Zones (the Spanish language acronym is ZEDE) are based on the ideas of Paul Romer, an economist at New York University, whose initial plan was that “the charter city should be established in abandoned territory,” not only to develop these unused areas but also to ensure that people would not be displaced when they’re created.