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The World Economic Forum

I have never been a fan of the WEF, although its demonisation by the anti-globalisation left is an endless source of amusement.  Gatherings of the great and the good rarely produce anything worthwhile.  This year’s Forum seems to have taken a turn for the worse, with the participation of celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Bono and Angelina Jolie, among others.  The discussions on poverty have provided plenty of opportunities for conspicuous compassion, yet many of these debates are pointless because they are blind to the fundamental causes of poverty.  Reducing poverty is not about rich countries spending money on poverty alleviation.  Indeed, by all accounts, such spending makes poverty worse by institutionalising statism and corruption in developing countries.  Reducing poverty requires promoting the necessary conditions for wealth creation: property rights, free markets and the rule of law.  Unfortunately, these are rather abstract concepts, difficult to translate into practical programs and well beyond the attention span of your average celebrity. 

Adam Smithee has been casting a sceptical eye over the WEF proceedings and is well worth a visit.

posted on 30 January 2005 by skirchner in Economics

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Australia Day, 2005

After 217 years, this outpost of the Anglosphere is probably in better shape than it has ever been.  The economy has been growing at one of the fastest average rates in the OECD over the last decade, the unemployment rate is at near 30 year lows, real investment as a share of GDP is at the highest levels in nearly half a century and net Commonwealth public sector debt has been all but eliminated.  Consumption growth and a widening current account deficit, far from being a sign of weakness, indicate confidence in Australia’s future growth prospects.  Perhaps less widely known is the fact that Australia has become a net exporter of direct investment capital in recent years.  At least some of Australia’s current account deficit is thus funding the globalisation of Australian business.

Against this backdrop, the Prime Minister’s approval rating is at its highest levels ever.  This is not unrelated to the fact that the federal opposition Labor Party is in disarray following its crushing election defeat last year.  The abandonment of foreign and defence policy bipartisanship under former Labor leaders Crean and Latham is at least partly responsible for this outcome.

Having said all that, Australia still has much unrealised potential.  With the anti-globalisation bloc in the Senate having been marginalised following the last federal election, there is little excuse for not completing the task of modernisation and integration with the global economy begun in the early 1980s.  2005 is likely to go down in history as the year in which this historic opportunity to finally bury isolationism, protectionism and paternalism was either seized or squandered.

posted on 26 January 2005 by skirchner in Economics

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