Albania again

Former Prime Minister Sali Berisha won a surprise upset victory in the Albanian elections earlier this month.

This is not particularly welcome news for anyone outside of Albania. Berisha, who was Albania’s chief executive from 1990 to 1997, is remembered as a corrupt and erratic authoritarian who ran a government of cronies, best remembered for the “Pyramid” crisis of 1997 that left Albania in anarchy with hundreds dead.

Inside Albania, however, Berisha has been cultivating an image as a repentant reformer. He’s been aided in this by widespread dissatisfaction with the Fatos Nano government, which was seen as extravagantly corrupt and increasingly isolated from the concerns of ordinary Albanians.
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Unocal Update

Following up on Edward’s post from last month.

Chinese interest has gained Unocal’s shareholders at least $400m extra from Chevron and its shareholders. Whether having regulatory clearance is worth $1.5bn (the remaining difference between the Chevron and CNOOC bids) is an open question. Since Unocal closed at $64.99 per share yesterday, $1.99 per share above Chevron’s bid, the market clearly expects a higher offer from Chevron or a choice in favor of CNOOC.

Unocal’s board of directors has endorsed a sweetened, $17 billion takeover bid from Chevron, rejecting a higher offer from one of China’s state-owned oil companies. …

Chevron boosted its offer by $2 per share to $63 per share — or $17 billion overall — shortly before the Unocal board met Tuesday night. CNOOC Ltd., an affiliate of China National Offshore Oil Corp., has an $18.5 billion offer on the table for the El Segundo-based company. Unocal’s board had previously also endorsed Chevron’s lower offer over the higher CNOOC bid.


What Makes China Tick?

This week seems to be China week. Everyone seems to be asking the same question: why is China so successful? ( see here and here and here.

Now maybe this is just an excuse for a bit of self-publicity, since I have just spent a day ‘sprucing-up’ the China page on my website, but lets see if I can take a shot at the question myself.
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Hungary Given Euro Warning

Hungary risks missing its 2010 target for adopting the euro unless its government reduces the budget deficit and improves policy co-ordination with the central. This at least is the view of the OECD as expressed in its annual report on Hungary out today. According to the OECD:

the key conclusion is that further reductions in the general government deficit have to come about through spending cuts because of the already high level of taxation. Failure to reach deficit targets have damaged credibility in the recent past and the Chapter discusses ways of providing more realistic budget targets, more transparent fiscal planning, better assessment of progress over the budget year and improved estimation of outcomes.

I can think of two pertinent questions to put to the authors of the report: will the euro still be around by the time we get to 2010 (in its present form, I doubt it), and if it is, are they sure that it’s a good idea (looking at what has happened eg to Portugal, Greece and Italy) for Hungary to join.

Confronting Demographic Change

Confronting Demographic Change is the title of a two day conference currently being organised by Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. The emphasis of the conference is on gender and family impact issues.

You can find a background briefing paper here.

This is also an interesting presentation.

Here’s a summary of the objectives. It’s very ‘commission speak’ of course, but at least it marks a growing recognition of the problems we are all going to face. I’m also intrigued by something: “Demographic changes, globalisation and rapid technological change are the three major challenges facing Europe today”. I’m intrigued to know when the hell they figured this out, especially since (if for globalisation you read China) it is something I have been arguing for over five years now, in this precise combination.
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Combustible Politics

I have felt for some time that Rober Maroni would not have been so outspoken without at least the tacit permission of Silvio Berlusconi, and now we have the evidence to back my hunch:

“Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called the euro a “disaster,” blaming the currency for Italy’s economic slump and seeking to use anti-euro sentiment in his election campaign against opposition leader Romano Prodi.

“Prodi’s euro has been a ripoff,”

With Italy in its second recession in as many years, the euro is proving to be a “disaster,” Berlusconi, 68, said. Berlusconi has blamed the euro for raising prices and choking exports.

Unified Growth Theory

According to Oded Galor it has become evident that in the absence of a unified growth theory that is consistent with the entire process of development, the understanding of the contemporary growth process would be limited and distorted. He quote Copernicus to the effect that:

?It is as though an artist were to gather the hands, feet, head and other members for his images from diverse models, each part perfectly drawn, but not related to a single body, and since they in no way match each other, the result would be monster rather than man.?
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