Russia’s Economy Contracts By 7% In Q1 2009

According to Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach last week, Russia’s economy shrank by 7 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2009, a staggering turnaround for an economy which has just enjoyed eight years of solid oil-fueled growth.

“These figures are worse than we expected,” Klepach said at a press conference in Kiev,citing preliminary figures. Klepach also stated that net capital outflows reached $33 billion in the first quarter of 2009, following record outflows of $130 billion in the second half of last year.

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They need a second opinion

Statement from the meeting of EU finance ministers and central bank governors (ECOFIN) in Prague —

The Ministers and Governors singled out the excessive focus on the supervision of individual financial market institutions and the related neglect of systemic risks as shortcomings of the current system.

Does anyone think that individual regulated institutions were suffering from excessive regulatory focus in the last 10 years?   If so, which one?  RBS, Hypo, Fortis, SocGen?  Inquiring minds would like to know.

Spain’s Unemployment Continues Its Sharp Upward Surge

The number of unemployed in Spain was up again in March – by “only” 123,543. I say “only” since it is evidently less than the 154,508 increase registered in February, or the 198,538 registered in January. And indeed many of the newspaper stories have been full of arguments from Employment Minister Maravillas Rojo (would that she could work “Maravillas”) about how Spain registered the weakest unemployment gain in six months in March (when compared to the previous month). However, as those who look into the economic analysis side of this a bit more (and who don’t believe in either wonders or “miracles) point out, taking seasonal factors into account the monthly 3.55% rise in March shows a more or less steady trend, and no special sign of improvement, despite the large stimulus programme. Last March, for example, unemployment fell by 0.62%. Continue reading

Re:Publica Day 3

9:45:30 AM: Cool, it’s almost over and now the Wifi works #rp09

1:50:46 PM: Interesting talk about internet activism in the Middle East by an inspiring young woman – Esra’a Al Shafei of

1:54:44 PM: Esra’a Al Shafei the difference between digital activism in the East and in the West: here people are allowed to say what they want.

2:00:15 PM: Cory Doctorow paraphrased my diploma thesis of 2000 – so there was a way to turn it into a bestseller. Note to self: surfing is on the wave.

2:02:21 PM: Mary C. Joyce explained that online activism was a big thing for Obama, but it wasn’t what the election. The candidate was.

2:03:42 PM: That’s why it probably won’t matter that Angela Merkel has only about 6,000 supporters on her facebook profile…

2:05:16 PM: Later this afternoon, there will be an interesting discussion about an emerging European digital sphere.

2:05:30 PM: BTW, my twitter account is @almostadiary.

2:07:58 PM: But now: political blogs in Germany – and they put that in the agenda without any kind of question mark…

4:42:40 PM: The panel about the European blogosphere with Jon Worth and Jeremie Zimmermann was quite inspiring. Watch out for buses in Brussels.

JPMorgan March Global PMI Report Shows (Slightly) Slowing Contraction

Data from the JPMorgan March Global PMI provide solid evidence that the speed of contraction in global manufacturing is lessening at the present time. Indexes tracking trends in output and new orders generally continued to rise across the globe, and are in general now up significantly from the series lows registered at the end of 2008. However, both the output and the new orders indexes remained at very low levels, all still signalling continuing contraction and well below those consistent with anything resembling a recovery in either component. Continue reading

What now?

The Royal Marines have hauled down their flag in Basra; this doesn’t mark the end of the British presence in Iraq, but more the beginning of the end, or, even more accurately, the end of the beginning of the end of the end. Most of them will be out by July, leaving only a small contingent to train the Iraqi army and add tone to what would otherwise be a mere vulgar brawl. The Romanians, the only other major European troop contingent still in Iraq (about 300 strong), will be gone by July too. By August, the only European soldiers left will be trainers – either British, Romanian, or the handfuls of others operating under the Nato training mission.

Though most of the summitry going on this week in London and elsewhere will be focussing on economics, the final end (more or less) of European involvement in Iraq is a good time to ask which direction the continent’s various militaries should be taking. Continue reading

Republica Day 2 – will there be WiFi? #rp09

10:35:40 AM: Didn’t get much out of the German Privacy Commissioner Peter Schaar’s talk except for “well, there’s more problems than ideas to solve them.

1:39:45 PM: Really liked Ralf Bendrath’s talk about emerging democratic structures in social networks with particular reference to facebook. #rp09

1:42:47 PM: The follow-up chat at the Privacy OS subconference was even better – intereresting technology from Kaiserslautern: “Hello world”

1:44:06 PM: Now it’s on to “growing up in the web” – Danah Boyd’s topic without Danah Boyd… let’s see.

2:36:36 PM: The Role of the State in the Digital Society… philosophy or criminology?

4:56:31 PM: Germany’s interior ministery wanted input from netizens but faced opposition due to lost trust that will be very difficult to rebuild. #rp09

6:10:15 PM: The problem is that people aren’t listening to Lawrence Lessig…

How Not To Convince People You Are Capable Of Having An Internal “Devaluation”

The news coming out of Estonia is obviously none too good at the moment. This morning we learnt that both Estonian industrial production and retail sales plunged at the most rapid rate on record in February, giving us very clear evidence that the recession is now deepening. Industrial output (adjusted for working days) fell an annual 30 percent, the biggest drop since 1995, following a 27 percent drop in January, while retail sales, excluding cars and fuel, fell 18 percent, the most since 1994. Month on month, output fell a seasonally adjusted 3.5 percent. And the situation is hardly likely to improve in the short term, since, as Danske Bank point out, all Estonia’s main partners are themselves now in deep recessions, so the possibilities of an uptick in activity – even were the economy competitive – are really pretty restricted.

“Industrial production is in freefall, and we expect a continuation of this trend in 2009,” Danske Bank A/S said in a note ahead of the report. “Only an improved outlook for Estonia’s main trading partners, Finland, Sweden, Germany, could change this trend, but this is hardly feasible before the beginning of 2010.”

In fact, while the crisis is a general one, some countries are obviously faring far worse than others, and Estonia’s industrial production dropped the most in the entire 27-nation European Union in December and January. And even if things do start to pick up again elsewhere in 2010, it is hard to see the Estonian economy benefiting that much, since it will still be grappling with price competitiveness issues (see below).

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Re:Publica ’09 day 1

12:19:18 PM: I’m far too tired, but in Berlin, trying to cope with 140 character posts… let’s hope the WiFi coverage at the conference will get better.

3:21:56 PM: This seriously feels like 300bps. John Kelly of the Berkman center held an interesting talk about link structures in different blogospheres.

3:24:01 PM: He noted the prominence of neo-conservative bloggers in the Arab linksphere as well as the rise of a shiite theological blog cluster.

3:25:46 PM: Luckily he didn’t have much of an idea of the German blogs that he had mapped… that was taken care of in the following panel discussion.

3:27:32 PM: The usual suspects talked about the same things they have talked about since forever. In this case, shift ’09 didn’t happen.

3:29:17 PM: I asked penalist Stefan NIggemeier if he didn’t think it’s boring to keep having the same chat over and over, and he said, “in a way, yes”.

3:31:57 PM: The afternoon panel about “changing media” could have used at least one person with a bit of macro insight… like Thomas Knüver #rp09

3:34:49 PM: I learned about the A&R dropbox at EMI Australia’s at the presentation about

3:36:07 PM: And in the end, I realised I may be too old for some things, 4chan for example.