Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
World should not ignore recession signals
A German GDP contraction, weak Chinese industrial output and an inversion of the US yield curve all seem to strengthen fears of a global slowdown and the world community needs to take a serious note of it.
Also highlighting the seriousness of the issue is the fact that stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic witnessed hefty losses on Wednesday.
The US Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007. A curve inversion, when short-dated bond yields are higher more than their longer-dated counterparts, is seen as a reliable warning for an impending recession.
The US curve has inverted before each recession in the past 50 years. It offered a false signal just once in that time.
The glaring signal of impending trouble has come from Germany where the economy shrank by 0.1 per cent in the second quarter as troubles in the auto industry held back the largest member of the 19-country Euro currency union.
The weak performance has darkened prospects for the entire Euro zone, where the European Central Bank is poised to add more monetary stimulus at its next meeting.
It has also raised the possibility that Germany could enter a technical recession by posting another consecutive quarter of falling output.
Germany's economy is facing headwinds as its auto industry, a key employer and pillar of growth, faces challenges adjusting to tougher emissions standards in Europe and China and to technological change.
Uncertainty over the terms of Britain's planned exit from the European Union has also weighed on confidence more generally.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that his country will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal.
The euro zone's GDP barely grew in the second quarter of 2019 as economies across the bloc lost steam.
On Tuesday, the dollar gained dramatically against the yen after US President Donald Trump backed off his Sept.1 deadline for imposing 10% tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, delaying duties on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods.
Those gains were reversed overnight, however, as scepticism about the progress began to weigh.
Singapore has already slashed its full-year economic growth forecast. The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product (GDP) in Singapore — often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy - to zero to 1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% projection.
Just recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had indicated that global trade expanded by merely 0.5% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the slowest year-on-year pace of growth since 2012.
It had also signaled that a more significant slowdown is possible.
IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath stated that she saw significant downside risks for global growth going forward, including escalating trade wars.
With the IMF lowering its forecast for global growth this year and the next, the world community should address more seriously prevailing concerns caused by factors such as additional US-China tariffs, technology tensions and a disorderly Brexit.
More and more businesses are worried globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production. The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.
In a hugely knitted world, coordinated actions suit best. Economic uncertainty can add to social unrest and hence the world community needs to wake up and act, before it is too late.

Kabul wedding attack a monstrous act
The terrorist attack that targeted a wedding in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is a cowardly, monstrous act that turned a scene of joy and celebration into horror and carnage.
The perpetrators of the crime against humanity should be swiftly brought to justice.
Imagine the plight of a groom who greets smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out just a few hours later. Targeting helpless civilians, including the elderly, women and children, reveals the depraved mindset of the killers.
The massive blast, which claimed several innocent lives, underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan.
The conflict in Afghanistan continues to be devastating for civilians.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has in its latest report stated that more civilians were killed by Afghan and international coalition forces in the first half of this year than by the Taliban and other militants, which they should take a serious note of.
At least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war against militant groups, including a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces.
The fighting has been forcing civilians to live under the constant threat of being targeted by militants or being caught up in ground fighting, or becoming inadvertent victims of air strikes by Afghan government and foreign forces.
More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, as per UN figures. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors.
Meaningless violence has become a norm in the country and the situation cannot be allowed to continue.
On Monday, scores of people including children were wounded after a series of explosions shook the eastern city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.
As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province and the casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.
Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day.
An attack deliberately targeting civilians is an outrage, and deeply troubling, as it can only be described as a cowardly act of terror, as stated by Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Such deliberate attacks on civilians signal a deliberate intent to spread fear among the population, which has already suffered too much.
The pace of such atrocious attacks indicates that current measures in place to protect must be strengthened and those who organised such attacks must be brought to justice and held to account.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MoFAIC, has condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack and reaffirmed its support to the Afghan government as it confronts the menace of terrorism.
As the ministry correctly pointed out, this cowardly attack claimed by Daesh on a civilian gathering is a solemn reminder of the complex challenges faced by the Afghan government as it works to enter a new phase of stability and security.
This unacceptable loss of life definitely underlines the importance of multilateral efforts to promote a comprehensive peace agreement that will degrade the ability of transnational terror groups to operate in Afghanistan, as the UAE foreign ministry pointed out.

UAE remains a beacon of hope for youth
The youth are the cornerstone of any development plan and their active contribution is not only necessary but also integral to the development process.
As countries across the globe marked the International Youth Day on Tuesday, the UAE stood out as a model nation because it has always made youth the focus of its attention in almost every aspect of its policy for the future.
Since the establishment of the UAE in 1971, the country has adopted clear national policy and strategic plans to empower the youth and develop their capabilities.
The Cabinet formed in February 2016 was called "Cabinet of Future" for including eight young new ministers, whose average age was 38, including Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, who assumed the post at the age of 22 to be the youngest minister in the world.
Saeed Saleh Al Rumaithi became a member of the Federal National Council, FNC, at the age of 31 to be the youngest member in the FNC's history.
In 2016, the Cabinet adopted the establishment of the Emirates Youth Council, under the leadership of Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs.
The council undertakes various important tasks, including developing a youth work system in the UAE, setting and mapping out strategies and policies for young people in line with the UAE’s future approaches.
It also identifies challenges faced by the youth in various sectors and proposes solutions to overcome them.
The council’s tasks also include proposing necessary solutions to ensure the positive participation of young people in society across various sectors.
Besides, the UAE Cabinet has approved the formation of the Federal Youth Authority to encourage young people to get involved in key sectors of the economy.
It is responsible for coordinating with local youth councils with the aim of setting an annual agenda for youth activities in the country and ensuring that the objectives, plans, strategies and activities of these councils are in line with the general plans of the country in this regard.
For several years consistently, most Arab youth from the region have named the UAE as the country in which they would like to live and work.
At the international level, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly stated that schools are “not equipping young people with the skills they need to navigate the technological revolution.”
Transforming Education is the theme for this year, which comes at a time when the world is facing a “learning crisis,” as per Guterres, and students need not only to learn, “but to learn how to learn”.
UN statistics reveals that significant transformations are still required to make education systems more inclusive and accessible: only 10% of people have completed upper secondary education in low income countries; 40 % of the global population is not taught in a language they speak or fully understand; and over 75 % of secondary school age refugees are out of school.
Education today should combine knowledge, life skills and critical thinking, as Guterres points out. It should include information on sustainability and climate change. And it should advance gender equality, human rights and a culture of peace.
The future-focused vision of the UAE leadership has been paying rich dividends. The UAE is indeed a beacon of hope and a model nation for young people, and for all the right reasons.

N-treaty collapse makes world less safer
The collapse of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia has fuelled fears of a new arms race and made the world a more dangerous place to live in.
It is hugely disappointing that the two major powers, instead of resolving their differences through sincere dialogue, chose a path that puts the entire world at risk.
The Intermediate-Range nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), negotiated by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, had a noble goal of eliminating land-based short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles by both countries.
Under the deal, missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers were eliminated. That paved the way for the mothballing of Russian SS-20 missiles and American Pershing missiles deployed in Europe.
For years, Washington has accused Russia of developing a new type of missile, the 9M729, which it says violates the treaty — claims that NATO has backed up.
The missile has a range of about 1,500 kilometres, according to NATO, though Moscow says it can only travel 480 kilometres.
Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous enemies of humanity. Nuke weapons have the potential to destroy an entire city killing millions, cause inconceivable damage to environment and ruin the lives of future generations with long-term catastrophic effects.
The blame game has begun too.
Washington has placed the responsibility firmly on Moscow over the demise of the treaty with  President Donald Trump insisting any new disarmament pact would now also need China to come on board.
Russia, on its part, has accused the US of making a "serious mistake" in turning its back on the INF, which the United Nations said had played a pivotal role in maintaining peace and stability for more than three decades.
"Russia is solely responsible for the treaty's demise," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement confirming Washington's formal withdrawal, minutes after Russia also pronounced the agreement void.
Russia's suggestion of a moratorium was also swiftly rebuffed by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg as not credible while saying the 29-country transatlantic alliance did not want to see a renewed battle for military supremacy.
In another worrisome development, Trump's new defence secretary Mark Esper has declared that the US has already begun work to develop mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems.
The INF pact had been widely proclaimed as a beacon of hope.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres points out, in the current deteriorating international security environment, previously-agreed arms control and disarmament agreements are increasingly under threat.
Since its entry-into-force on June 1, 1988, the Cold War-era arms control contributed tangibly to the maintenance of peace and stability internationally and especially in Europe, playing an important role in reducing risk, building confidence and helping to bring the Cold War to an end.
There is no alternative to dialogue on nuclear arms control. Risk-reduction measures, including transparency in nuclear-weapon programmes and further cut in all types of nuclear weapons is the best way forward. For that, leaders need to keep the dialogue process alive.
Guterres is correct in insisting on the need to avoid destabilising developments and to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.
Russia and the US should extend New START and undertake negotiations on further arms control measures.
That’s the best option and any other path could prove disastrous.
A world free of nuclear weapons should be the common goal.