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Foreign Aid: Famished for Credibility

By Jens F. Laurson and George A. Pieler

There’s been a good deal of blowback against Wikileaks, but who didn’t enjoy the juicier parts of the disclosures? 

Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Brysac: God's Own Country

Kochi (Cochin)—In the 1990s, the wordsmiths in New Delhi struck upon “Incredible India” as the advertising shorthand for the world’s most populous democracy. Not to be outdone, Kerala’s rulers rebranded their state “God’s Own Country,” a slogan now seen everywhere. But three thoughts occurred to us after spending ten days traveling through Kerala:
  1. That the apostrophe should appear at the end of the first word, given the plurality of divinities in this intriguing state;
  2. That among these deities is the Marxist god that demonstrably failed the former Soviet empire; and
  3. That communism here has half-succeeded and half-failed in interesting ways.
Much has been written about Kerala’s quality of life, its achievements in literacy, health, and empowerment of women. But we found that God's Own Country is also vulnerable to mortal misjudgments and adverse external forces. As we learned in Mumbai, access to jobs is a major source of communal strife. In Kerala, the lack of jobs for educated citizens is an omnipresent challenge. Unemployment in the state hovers around 25 percent, depending on how and whom you count; roughly twice as many women as men are jobless. Moreover, Kerala has no industrial base. Workers are unionized and wages are high compared to neighboring Tamil Nadu. Land is in short supply and expensive; consumer goods are imported. Jumbo-sized billboards pepper the landscape; television commercials interrupt programming—a Mad Man’s delight. Print journalism flourishes, and people are well informed and opinionated. But in the words of a friendly critic, “Keralites know their rights, but not their obligations.” On our journey we have seen several attempts to mitigate the relentless consumer pressure on a weak economic base by promoting ecotourism, nurturing manufacturing cooperatives founded a half- century ago, and disbursing micro-loans to seed small businesses. The intentions are admirable; the limitations severe. Early on, we visited a popular tourist destination, the hill station of Ponmudi, nearly three hours by car from the capital, Trivandrum. But whereas the ancient Romans excelled at constructing ruler-straight roads, Keralites have produced what must be among the world’s greatest collections of hairpin turns (22 in the final stretch). On leveler terrain, public and private buses, trucks, motorcycles, bikes, auto-rickshaws, and cars hurtle through roads blocked by armies of pedestrians, cows, protest demonstrators, and the occasional temple elephant accompanied by his or her mahouts. A recent cover story from India Today noted that India has the highest number of road accidents in the world: by last count, 13 every hour, 114,590 a year.  Safety aside, public transport is sluggish, inadequate, and subject to periodic strikes. This infrastructure is palpably inhospitable to large-scale ecotourism. As a headline in The Hindu puts it, India is a country “Where the Pedestrian Is a Third-Class Citizen.” Sidewalks are a rarity in Kerala. 

GCLS UPDATE: Appetite for Reduction

PANEL: Global Commodity Crunch: Food, Water, Oil, Energy, Trade? Master of Ceremonies: John Authers, Investment Editor, Financial Times Panelists: Badr Jafar, Executive Director, Crescent Petroleum Group Josh Margolis, Co-Chief Executive Director, CantorCO2e Henk-Jan Brinkman, Senior Adviser for Economic Policy, World Food Programme Zachary Karabell, President, River Twice Research Panel summary by Mary Kate Nevin, World Policy Journal After Financial Times journalist John Authers introduced the panel, Badr Jafar examined the issue of oil shortages from an industry perspective, explaining that the "roller coaster" of oil prices in 2008 was precipitated both by oil speculation and the depletion of reserves. As demand for oil steadily increases in China and elsewhere in Asia, the threat of a serious shortage continues to loom portentously. Going forward, investments to increase capacity must come from public-private partnerships, too little of which currently exist, he says. "The next 10 years is going to be crucial in seeing whether we move more towards partnership or more towards conflict." He then addressed carbon emissions, presenting several practical ways to move toward their reduction. The most important thing the world can do is rid itself of its dependence on coal; "by displacing coal with natural gas worldwide," he said, "we can reduce carbon emissions by over 70 percent." He also called attention to rainforest degradation, imploring us to appreciate rainforests' natural carbon capture and storage capabilities and to take action to protect them. Josh Margolis of CantorCO2e, a business focused on environmental rights, also emphasized the urgency of cutting carbon emissions. The United States emits dozens more tons of carbon per person than places like India and China, but that these developing economies strive to someday consume like Americans "keeps [him] up at night." But he was optimistic about the global potential to address the issue, citing America's pending cap-and-trade bill that seeks to cut emissions by 8 billion to 1 billion tons by 2050. "We should never waste an opportunity presented by an acute crisis," he said, and the opportunity is there "if we accept that we really have to solve the problem."

FALL FUNDRAISER

 

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