A few years ago, authors Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio published “Hungry Planet,” a fascinating book with pictures of what families eat around the world. The picture from Mexico was revealing. If you take a brief look, it seems a quite healthy diet, varied and containing lots of fruits and vegetables. But if you look more closely, you will notice a dozen 2-liter bottles of soft drinks and about two dozen beer bottles at the back of the picture. In addition, in front of two children, there’s a table with sweet breads and other high-calorie snacks.
A view from Central Europe and the Baltics
Ten years ago this month the European Union expanded to include 10 new members - Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia. It was the largest expansion in the EU's history in terms of population and area, and of historic importance in that it brought into one Union countries that had formerly been on different sides of the Iron Curtain.
Given the Eurozone crisis from which the EU is slowly recovering, it is natural to ask if EU membership has benefitted the 2004 entrants.
When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched the results from the most recent assessment of mathematics, reading, and science competencies of 15 year-olds (the Program for international Student Assessment, PISA) last December, it held encouraging news for the European Union’s newest members. Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic scored above the OECD average and ahead of many richer European Union neighbors. Compared to previous assessments, the 2012 scores of most countries in Central Europe and the Baltics were up (as they were in Turkey, as Wiseman et al highlighted in this blog recently). Improvements were particularly marked in Bulgaria and Romania, traditionally the weakest PISA achievers in the EU, as well as well-performing Poland and Estonia. Only Slovakia and Hungary saw declines (see chart with PISA mathematics scores).
Collectively, the 10 indicators in Doing Business 2014 are a great tool for assessing the ease of doing business in countries and measuring the quality of their regulations.
The results can be surprising for some countries in the European Union (EU): Would you ever consider that the most difficult country to start a business in the EU is Austria? That Italy is the worst place to pay taxes? That one of the top countries in protecting investors is Slovenia? Or that Poland is the global runner-up in providing information about credit?
Eleven of the less prosperous members of the European Union – Bulgaria, Croatia1, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia (EU11)—have remained attractive destinations for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovakia witnessed FDI levels in 2012 similar to pre-crisis levels. Poland and Bulgaria also experienced large gains in FDI in 2012.
Financial Markets…U.S. Treasuries slid for the first time in four days, with the benchmark note yields 3 basis points to 1.62%, as a government report showed U.S. employers added more than forecasted jobs in November. U.S government bonds have advanced 2.8% this year as of yesterday, after gaining 9.8% in 2011 and 5.9% in 2010.
Financial Markets…Year-to-date global corporate bond sales rose to $3.43 trillion, already surpassing 2011’s full year total of $3.29 trillion, as further stimulus from global central banks pushed yields to record lows. Funding costs for the riskiest to the most creditworthy corporates are plunging as the persistent low-yield environment spurred unprecedented investor demand.
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Russian Federation
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Macroeconomics and Economic Growth
- Financial Sector
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Industrial Production
- fiscal deficit
- consumer price inflation
- Central Bank policy rates
Freedom of expression and media freedom - most contentious issues not only in autocracies but, seemingly increasingly, also in democracies. It's a fine line between regulating the media and strangling it. Who should be protected by media regulation? The media? The public? Freedom of expression? The government? National security?
Let's start with the media. Does the media need protection? Surely - at least to some extend media systems need to be shielded from being overwhelmed by economic and political interests. If we assume that a free and balanced media is fundamental to a healthy balance between the state and its citizens there need to be safeguards that allow journalists to report without fear of repercussions.
Important developments today:
1. European government bonds climb on speculation Fed may resume debt buyback
2. Euro area industrial orders slump in July
November 9th is an ambiguous day for Germany. On November 9, 1938, the Nazis killed 400 Jews, arrested about 30,000 more, destroyed over 800 synagogues and thousands of homes and businesses in the Kristallnacht, a pogrom against German and Austrian Jews.
About half a century later, on November 9, 1989, Germans in East and West Berlin stormed the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Cold War, and brought down the Iron Curtain, literally with their own hands. I lived in East Germany when people started going out into the streets, chanting "We are the people" and demanding more freedom from the communist government. In September 1989 the first so called Monday Demonstration brought people out onto the street in Leipzig, first to pray for peace, then to demand freedom. I remember the exhilarating feeling when those demonstrations spread through other cities and drew more and more people until hundreds of thousands of East Germans protested - peacefully, without violence - for their rights.