Category: Business

The Fifth Column’s business section focuses on more than just Profit and Loss statements.

On the Japan-China “Rail Wars”

There were several important outcomes of the previous three-day visit made by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan (from November 10 to November 12, 2016), but it is the Cooperation Agreement on the development of high-speed railway transport that attracts particular attention.

It, alongside other facts that have emerged over the past few years, has led to Bloomberg publishing a thesis by American Orientalist Jeffrey Kingston on the expansion of the “rail wars” between Japan and China, which is taking on an almost global nature. This time it has manifested itself in the territory of India. The participants of the so-called “war” are resorting to methods that include both political influence on the leadership of the country that announces a tender for the construction of transport infrastructure, as well as the financial and technology attractiveness of the proposed projects.

China and Japan, the two global leaders in the construction of high-speed railways, have used these tools in full in the course of the first such tender announced by Indonesia last summer. A year ago, we briefly described the dramatic development of the Japan-China struggle to win the order to develop and implement the construction project of the 140-km long Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway on the island of Java worth more than 5 billion dollars. The government of Indonesia found itself in a situation that can only be described as “dramatic” as it had to choose the winner out of the two leading Asian powers.

Only One Step Away from a Global Trade War

China shipping

The financial crisis of 2007-2009 effectively terminated the process of globalization. In 2015 world trade suddenly dropped by more than 10% for the first time since 2009. Nothing like this has been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But some politicians, public figures, scholars, and journalists continue to talk about globalization as an «objective» and «progressive» process, even though it has already ended.

The world has embarked on a new era. One important hallmark of this era is the strengthening of protectionism in international trade and investment, the splintering of the global market into trade and economic zones, and even the move to regulating trade on a bilateral basis. According to the WTO, just in the period between October 2015 and May 2016 the G20 countries adopted 145 laws aimed at strengthening trade barriers, and over 1,500 such laws have been adopted since 2008. In total, according to estimates by the renowned British economist Simon Evenett, there are close to 4,000 protectionist laws and regulations on the books around the world. And the countries of the G20 – where over 90% of global trade originates – are responsible for 80 % of those trade barriers.

Long jail terms for mocking Zimbabwe’s new currency

Parliament rushes through law in anticipation of bond note introduction

Zimbabwe’s controversial “bond notes” currency, which will be introduced at the end of the month, will be protected by hefty prison sentences.

According to a new law: “Any person who engraves, soils or makes any words, figures, letters or marks, line or devices which resembles in whole or in any part the said bank note is liable to an imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years,” reads a press release from Parliament.

There has been much vocal opposition and many protests against the introduction of the surrogate currency.

BP in Talks with Iran to Develop 4 Oilfields

Director of National Iranian South Oil Company Bijan Alipour said negotiations are underway with the British Petroleum (BP) on development of four oilfields in south of Iran.

The National Iranian South Oil Company has held talks with 22 domestic and foreign companies for contracts to develop Karanj, Parsi, Rag Sefid and Shadegan Oilfields, Alipour said Monday, speaking on the sidelines of an exhibition of oil industry equipment in Ahvaz, capital of southwestern province of Khuzestan.

Among them are Russian and Chinese firms as well as BP, he said, predicting that the negotiations will lead to signing of memorandums of understanding in a few months.

Northern Ireland govt refuses to suspend controversial Middle East security projects

Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister has rejected calls to suspend security and justice projects with Bahrain and Egypt.

International human rights group Reprieve wrote to Stormont’s Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton MLA, warning that a Northern Irish government-owned company, NI-CO, was involved in security and justice programmes that risked complicity in torture and death sentences in the Middle East. In his reply, the Minister refused to step in, claiming that responsibility lies with the UK Foreign Office and the European Union, who fund the multi-million pound projects.

However, NI-CO’s chief executive is ultimately responsible to the Economy’s Department permanent secretary, according to an official report. Last month, UK Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood failed to tell Parliament, when asked, whether he had warned the Northern Ireland Executive about the risks involved in NI-CO’s work.