Tag Archives: Congo

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The U.S. Presidential elections are in their final days, and the candidates are busy touring swing states in last minute pitches to undecided voters.  Early voting is already underway, and some 20 million people have already voted.  Most analysts are projecting a win for Obama, but McCain is still in position to pull off the upset.  Tuesday is the big day, so all Americans should be sure to exercise their right to vote!

In other news from around the world:

1.  The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which reignited in late summer after the rebel leader Laurent Nkunda announced his intention to cancel the ceasefire under which the country had effectively been operating since 2002.  The latest round of fighting, centered in the eastern part of the country known as North Kivu, has sparked a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, as an estimated one million refugees have fled their homes.  On Wednesday, a new ceasefire was announced after four days of intense fighting, and now the European Union is considering sending troops and aid to the Congo.

2. Ukraine became the latest victim of the global financial crisis on Friday, as its parliament was forced to adopt a package of legislation imposed by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for receiving an emergency $16.5 billion loan from the international organization.  Ukraine’s turn to the IMF for a rescue package follows on the heels of similar moves in Iceland and Hungary, signaling the wide scope of the crisis.  More generally, the Eurozone seems to be facing falling inflation and rising unemployment—with some national variation—as the economic crisis expands.

3.  The global economic crisis is also being felt in China, where projections for annual GDP growth have been cut from 12 percent to 9-9 percent.  Chinese companies are slashing production output, as worldwide demand slides.  Some larger Chinese companies are cutting production by as much as 50 percent, while smaller companies are going out of business altogether.  In an effort to rekindle the economy, the Chinese government announced it would cut the benchmark one-year deposit rate

4.  A U.S. raid into Syria last week has provoked a sharp response from within Syria, as protestors demonstrated against the action.  Syria’s foreign minister condemned the move as an act of “criminal and terrorist aggression.”  The U.S. claimed that Syria had been home to foreign fighters moving into Iraq, saying hat the raid had successfully targeted Abu Ghadiya, who U.S. officials described as “one of the most prominent foreign fighter facilitators in the region.”  As a result of the attack, U.S.-Syrian relations have soured and anti-U.S. demonstrations forced the temporary closure of the American Embassy in Damascus

5.  In another development highlighting the continuing efforts of the Russian government to reassert itself on the global stage after the Cold War, Russia is negotiating the construction of a new naval base in Libya.  Russia envisions the base as a necessary counterbalance to American interests in the region.  In recent weeks, Libya has increasingly opened its economy to foreign investment and has dramatically improved relations with the West.

Can I Have a Big Mac, Fries, and a Coke With That?

Assessing political stability and comparing levels of economic development has always been a tricky business.   Take, for example, the use of gross domestic product as a proxy for levels of economic prosperity.  Everyone uses it—World Bank programs cite it, academics use it, and so on.  But no one ever really seems truly happy with it.  And with good reason.  As a measure of economic development, GDP leaves a lot out.  But if we want to look at levels of economic development, we really don’t have any good alternatives…or do we?

Last week NPR carried a story from the Africa correspondent for the Economist, Jonathan Ledgard.  (You can listen to the segment on the Day to Day website).  Ledgard argues that Coca Cola sales are a key indicator of political and economic stability across the African continent.  Why?  Well, Coke is widely available, relatively cheap, and almost always produced locally.  When Coke runs out, as in the case of Somalia, Eritrea, or Kenya, a crisis is usually brewing.  According to Legdard, Coke is

a pan-African product. It’s found in almost every African country… Even in the sort-of sub-villages, some guy on a bicycle will be taking five or six cases of Coke to a shack in the Congolese jungle or in the backwaters of Ethiopia. And it’s kind of amazing that that product can penetrate that far… A drop in the sales of Coke will be reflected in political, cultural, ethnic disturbances.

So it looks like we can add the Coca Cola index of political stability to the Economist’s Big Mac Index, which measures purchasing power parity, and Thomas Friedman’s Golden Arches theory—a restatement of Kant’s liberal peace—which asserts that no two countries with McDonald’s have ever gone to war with one another…almost true, except for the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the recent war between Israel and Lebanon.

So does globalization mean peace and prosperity?  I’m not sure, but at least you can have  a Big Mac and a Coke with that.