Monday 17 March 2008

Tibet's challenge to Bush-Cheney (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Just as any CEO would, George W. Bush and his CFO Dick Cheney have focused on ensuring as high a monetary return as possible to those who invested in their campaigns. Whether it is the oil companies based out of Houston, Texas, or corporations like Halliburton, those who put their dollars behind the Bush-Cheney ticket have been rewarded beyond their most optimistic calculations.

The downside has been a recession caused by the financial cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with the higher oil prices generated by the geopolitical experiments of the current U.S. administration and the get-rich-anyhow outlook of financial institutions. Had the U.S. economy not been faced with these multiple shocks, stock and housing prices would most likely have continued to rise, thereby bailing out those institutions that advanced funds to subprime borrowers.

However, while individual corporations have benefitted exponentially from 2001 to 2008, the bulk of U.S. consumers have had to be content with modest or negative gains, thereby leading to the present loss of confidence in the future of what will, for another generation at least, be the primary economic engine of the globe.

After witnessing the colonial-style scramble for profits from the oil sector in Iraq -- which in its transparent rapacity most resembles Belgian policy in the Congo during much of the past century -- as well as the manner in which some corporate and other entities have leveraged their political connections to secure monopolies in Iraq and Afghanistan, savers in East and South Asia as well as Russia have steadily lost confidence in the integrity of the U.S. dollar and shifted to the euro. This has contributed to a slide in the greenback's value that may wipe away any gains in the anemic anti-inflation measures taken by the U.S. Federal Reserve thus far, and exacerbate the decline in both business as well as consumer confidence.

Monday 10 March 2008

Malaysia's 'Endangered' Majority (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi made the worst call of his political career by calling a general election a full year before it was due, believing that international economic uncertainty was likely to send the economy southwards and ethnic tensions were at risk of escaping from the band-aid applied to them.

He therefore decided on a March 2008 poll, but Saturday's loss of 60 of the 199 parliamentary seats that his Barisan Nasional Party had won in 2004 has weakened not only his government but his leadership over a party unhappy with his "bureaucratic" style.

Sadly, the mild-mannered, moderate Badawi is less the culprit than he is the victim of the Malay supremacist policies followed by his party since 1957. These policies have implied that the multiracial, multifaith country's Malay majority of 60 percent was an endangered species in need of protection against the rest of the population, including the one-tenth that are ethnic Indians and one-fifth of Chinese descent.

The "bumiputra" policies followed by Malaysia's rulers since the 1950s have been sharpened over the decades, so that in effect today non-Muslims and non-Malays have a second-class status in the country. As occurred in the Indian mutiny of 1857, it was a question of faith that ignited the Hindu firestorm on Nov. 25, 2007, that led to the present electoral debacle for Badawi -- after Hindu temples were bulldozed to make way for roads, malls and housing sites.
Such contempt for the institutions of their faith sparked anger among the Hindus of Malaysia. Although Muslims of Indian origin kept away from the protests that followed, the 90 percent of the Malaysian Indian community that are Hindu was alienated from the ruling party by the brutal police repression let loose against peaceful protestors in scenes reminiscent of the days of the freedom struggle in India. Several of the protestors were jailed, and many are still in prison on the absurd charge of terrorism.