Opinion - Page 2

Life and times in England today?

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There is so much going on in England that it is hardly necessary to describe the plight of the British.

One of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches was unrecognisable at the weekend after a huge sewage and mud spill, according to The Times, tainted the environment.

“Last Sunday morning showed the usually pale blue water transforming into a murky shade of brown.Environmental groups have described the scenes as shocking and the government is being called on to review its sewage action plan.South West Water confirmed that the storm overflow at Agnes, in Cornwall, had triggered ‘briefly’ but claimed that mud dislodged by heavy rain had also contributed to the discolouration of the water”.

Inside the House of Commons, and on the front pages of most major papers and news websites this morning, embattled Home Secretary, SuelaBraverman, literally “came back from the dead on Halloween”. She has come under fire for her handling of the migrant boats of Albanian economic migrants crossing the English Channel from the French coast. She sparked outrage for calling the situation “an invasion”, deemed unwarranted by the Labour Opposition. Refugee charities and pressure groups have also accused her of overcrowding these economic migrants at Manston, in Kent, and allowing them to sleep on the floor, while awaiting processing.

It is well known that over 30,000 Albanian economic migrants have flooded into UK in the past year, after working on parts of the Continent including France as cheap farm labour, flooded with cash to find a home in England. 

To avoid the accusation of bias against the Home Secretary, past Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has been blamed for a security breach on her phone being tapped by outside agents. Blame is the name of the game.

Does anyone want to be Prime Minister of UK at this time?

An elderly woman patient at Kingston Hospital in Surrey confronted Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, during hisplanned visit to her ward recently. She warned him to pay nurses more and when the Prime Minister said ‘the NHS is important to him and to the country’, she retorted, “yes, you are not trying, you need to try harder”.

People generally want to “shove the blame” for all the ills of England, on to the English born, first Asian Prime Minister. Is there a taint of prejudice, who knows? So why is the Prime Minister working all the given hours of the day to put things right? Why is he wanting to turn Britain around, what his motive to prove himself capable, while people name him as Rishi, and not call him by his official title as “Prime Minister”?

Whilst all this is happening, is there is a hidden agenda?

There is a“method in the madness”?  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Hunt is eying ways to cover  a multi-billion hole,(£60 billion on estimate fiscal black-hole) with plans that vital public services could be cut on the 17 November 2022 Mini Budget Statement. This is argued is close to the heart of the Prime Minister.

The English are thought to detest the French “froggies,” but want a French speaking Mauritian- Indian, Home Secretary, SuelaBraverman, to broker a deal with her French counterpart, to help curb the flood of migrants across the English Channel. She too is working round the clock to prove that she can deliver, and/or better the English “speaking French with the French”, by stopping criminal Albanian drug economic migrants flooding into UK.

People smugglers are being watched after the Home Secretary’s intervention, now more closely monitored by the French and British authorities. In fact, the Home Office may sooner than later, pay a sum to the French authorities, to curb the migrants coming across from France, rather than accommodating migrants at hotels at state expense.

The Battle of the Wits

While the Asians in high office are keen on showing off their talents, it is not strange that the English are being driven to work harder to survive. Most working people first want to go on strike to claim better wages. Understandably, they are worried that there could be cheap labour flooding in from abroad, such as Nursing Staff and other factory workers, plus boat loads of migrants, to accept low pay and conditions. Doctors and surgeons, in specialist hospitals in England, are thus performing more operations per day with the assistance of Anaesthetics, to clear the backlog due to COVID-19.

The Nurses at Hospitals are soon to ballot their members, as walk-outs are looming. They like the Train drivers want to hold the country to ransom, by demanding higher wages amidst soaring inflation and the oncoming winter.

Civil Service administrators are also worried that the new Chancellor may use his axe to chop top heavy government departments.

The one thing is for sure, there is a hue and cry for more wages as inflation soars. At the same time, market forces are demanding to cut to size of the economy, which is the vision of both the Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. Clawing back the excessive profits made in recent days and months by the Energy Companies in UK, is sooner than later envisaged by the Government and is welcome by both the Opposition and the general public.

US gets a nasty surprise in Ukraine

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Something has got to change in Ukraine, for sure. The plea by 30 left-wing US lawmakers from President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party on Monday seeking a negotiated settlement with Russia to end the Ukraine war is an extraordinary event. 

In the US Congress, they form part of a nearly 100-member block called the Congressional Progressive Caucus – chaired by Pramila Jayapal, a representative from Washington state. They are a motley crowd of democratic socialists and self-styled “progressive capitalists,” but what the party bosses cannot ignore is that they stand in the way of the Trumpist juggernaut and their potential to defeat Trumpism can be crucial in 2024. 

Therefore, the Biden administration’s low-key initial response to their plea on Ukraine cannot be taken as the last word. In the past 48 hours at least, there has been no tirade against them in the US commentariat. 

They made four key elements in their letter addressed to President Biden

  • Washington should explore “vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire” in the war in which the US has spent tens of billions of US taxpayer dollars in military assistance. 
  • Such efforts should be front-loaded with “direct talks with Russia.” 
  • A framework for peace should include “incentives to end hostilities, including some form of sanctions relief, and bring together the international community to establish security guarantees for a free and independent Ukraine that are acceptable for all parties, particularly Ukrainians.” [Emphasis added.]
  • The war is wide open, the western narrative notwithstanding. “The alternative to diplomacy is protracted war, with both its attendant certainties and catastrophic and unknowable risks.”

The signatories would have been aware that although the Biden Administration is pursuing a hardline policy, things can change if the midterms hand down a crushing defeat to the Democrats. 

Several extraneous factors are also at work. For a start, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s planned visit to China comes so soon after the unveiling of the US National Security Strategy in Washington which visualised China as the enemy. Europeans are dissenting.

The French President Emmanuel Macron called on the US to take the lead to engage with the Kremlin, echoing what Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has been demanding. There is discontent in Europe, hit hard by the economic crisis, that the American oil companies are “war profiteering.”

Lurking below the radar is the hidden truth that Ukraine is a basket case with a non-functioning economy. The US cannot expect the European allies to keep that economy afloat. 

Meanwhile, a massive military Russian build-up signals plans to launch a major offensive in a few weeks from now aiming to end the war on Moscow’s terms.

However, dovetailing with all this is an unthinkable development casting shadows on the US-UK tandem navigating the Ukraine war, which may turn out to be the ultimate clincher. 

What emerges is that the UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace’s secretive visit last week to Washington was more in response to a summons from the White House than a British initiative. Wallace said in a dark tone as he was leaving that there were things to be discussed that were far too sensitive.  

At any rate, following the flurry of phone calls on Saturday by Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu with his French, British and US counterparts regarding the possibility of Ukraine using a “dirty bomb” in the war, the foreign ministers of France, the US and the UK promptly issued a joint statement rejecting “Russia’s transparently false allegations” and called it “a pretext for escalation.” 

Nonetheless, acting on the Russian allegation, the IAEA has been told to undertake an investigation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Rafael Grossi, the agency’s Director-General on Monday and “welcomed the IAEA’s readiness to visit Ukraine.” 

Blinken also spoke with Stoltenberg on Monday and, strangely enough, “called for continued Western unity and support for Ukraine.” But, interestingly, the State Department quietly removed from its website the US-UK-France joint statement.

This was when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed on Monday that “Detailed information indicating the institutions that may be commissioned for this purpose was conveyed through the defence minister [Sergey Shoigu] during his contacts with his counterparts in the United States, Britain, France and Turkey. More contacts are planned between our defence ministries.” 

Lavrov added: “Some of our partners have really suggested a discussion of the information we have at a professional military level. This is a kind of approach that we supported.” 

Could elements in Kiev be having their own Plan B to escalate the war and drag the US and NATO into it? There are no easy answers. 

The bottomline is that “constructive engagement” has begun between Moscow on one side and Washington, London and Paris on the other. But it’s really touch-and-go. The Moscow daily Izvestia quoted the noted Russian military expert Vladislav Shurygin on Monday: “What is a dirty bomb? To create it, all that is necessary is to dig up a barrel with nuclear waste from some power plant, put them in a capsule and then jerk 100 kg of TNT.” 

Shurygin explained: “Even in this case, the infection will be in a radius of maybe 500 metres, maybe a kilometre. And then it all starts to sink into the soil… If it is torn in the water or infect the water, then it will all sweep downstream, lie on the bottom and gradually go away. To make the waters of the Dnieper radioactive, I do not even know how much [water] would need to be drained out. Remember, Fukushima poisoned the sea for six months and no one even noticed it. The intention of the Ukrainian authorities is not very clear. If they want to blame it on us, it won’t be easy; when we have “clean” bombs, why we would need “dirty” ones is completely unclear.” 

It is no secret that MI6 and SAS are in the driving seat in the Ukrainian military command in Kiev and in the front lines. The paradigm is something like the tail wagging the dog. MI6 calibrates the dynamics of the war while the CIA and Pentagon claim success for Biden’s Russia strategy. MI6 has a whole history of that sort — be it in Iran or the Suez crisis — even in Hong Kong.

The current regime change in Westminster absolves the MI6 of accountability. Of course, Boris Johnson — Zelensky’s best friend, guru and guardian — becomes a burnt-out case. He has discreetly withdrawn his hat from the ring and slunk away.

Kiev has been deprived of its last hurrah, as Russia nips the “dirty bomb” in its buds, clearing the pathway for its grand offensive to end the war. Whether the planned Russian offensive will go ahead would depend on any meeting between Biden and President Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Nov, 15-16.  

The big question is whether this is a wake-up call for the one-dimensional men in the Biden Team. Perhaps, that is too much to expect. But there is no question that the 30 lawmakers stand vindicated. 

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Global warming and consumer energy bills

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We are changing when we see our climate change. Climate has changed when our Earth has warmed and cooled over centuries. But in the past century, another force has started to influence climate. That force many believe is the interaction of mankind on our environment. We make it happen more rapidly than past natural events. This does not mean other natural causes don’t exist. It means that the effect of natural causes is too small or they occur too slowly to make an appreciable difference.

Young people the world over, shall we say the developed world, are the forerunner activists of climate change. They have the strongest belief about climate change and they are in need to take action immediately. Recently, we saw two youth trying to galvanise action in their known way of tossing a can of tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting at the National Gallery, London. They were part of the “Just stop oil” demonstration in the UK who want to voice their grievances, their theatrical agitation against fossil fuel extraction.

But as is known climate is an especially difficult issue to mobilise public opinion, especially in the present context of high energy prices in Britain and around the world. Voters it seems, are in no way enthused about climate change at present. There is a big gulf in public perception of the urgency of climate change, when their energy bills, to keep themselves warm during winter, has trebled since 1 October 2022,with Energy Companies in UK increasing prices and the Government having to increase the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) to £2,500 until April 2023.

The main renewables – solar and wind do not produce heat leaving UK households highly dependent on gas boilers. But renewables are helping to limit price rises for electricity, as they reduce the amount of gas needed for electricity generation.

What then would help lower energy bills?

The longer-term solution for energy bills, climate change and geopolitical risks from Russia, according to Paul Massara, ex CEO, Npower, is greater investment in energy efficiency programmes.

With the UK Government’s Bill Support ending in April 2023 all eyes and ears are not on Climate Change, but on the money households and businesses would need to spend on energy. Whilst macroeconomic stability is the new priority of the new Government of PM Rishi Sunak, a precondition to economic growth.

US breaks ice, Russia thaws

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6 mins read

Fall ends and winter starts at the moment of the December solstice. But what if the Vernal Equinox arrives instead? In these times of climate change, anything is possible. There are subtle signs. Backyard birds are singing, butterflies and bumblebees are returning. How can one possibly miss it? 

It is abundantly clear by now that it was Ukraine war that drew the British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace post-haste to Washington on a secretive visit last Tuesday. Wallace met with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan followed up with meetings at the Pentagon, State Department and the spy agencies. 

Two press releases from the Biden Administration ensued — readout of Sullivan-Wallace meeting and a statement by President Biden, pinned on the exit of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister, reaffirming the evergreen Anglo-American alliance. The striking thing was that neither statement spewed fire. Yet, the US and Britain are in the middle of a war that, according to Biden, is inching close to the Armageddon. 

Upon his return to London, Wallace lost no time to make a statement on Ukraine at the House of Commons, on Thursday. Although not directly relating to his visit to Washington, Wallace’s statement radiated from his consultations with top US officials.  

The statement largely adhered to the western triumphalist narrative of the war in Ukraine to the effect that “Russia’s ground campaign is being reversed. It is running out of modern long-range missiles and its military hierarchy is floundering. It is struggling to find junior officers to lead the rank and file.” 

However, towards the end, Wallace abruptly changed tack by expressing  appreciation of Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s handling of the “potentially dangerous engagement” on September 29 between an RAF RC-135W Rivet Joint spy plane “on routine patrol” over the Black sea, which “interacted” with by two Russian armed Su-27 fighter aircraft when one of the Russian jets released a missile in the vicinity of the British plane “beyond visual range”. Wallace messaged the crucial importance of keeping communication lines open to Moscow. (The Hansard record is here.) 

Significantly, a day later, the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made a phone call to Shoigu, the first such contact in over 5 months. Apparently, Austin and Wallace have a common opinion that it is about time to resume conversations with Moscow. 

The Pentagon readout merely said Austin “emphasised [to Shoigu] the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine.”

Indeed, Austin also took care to brief his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov about his initial call with Shoigu and “to reiterate the unwavering U.S. commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to counter Russia’s aggression.

“Secretary Austin also underscored the international community’s continued support in building Ukraine’s enduring strength and safeguarding Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in the future, as demonstrated by the security assistance commitments made by allies and partners at the most recent Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting on October 12. The two leaders pledged to remain in close contact,” the Pentagon announced.

Curiously, two days later, on Sunday, it was Shoigu’s turn to make a follow up call to Austin. But this time around, the Pentagon readout clarified that “Secretary Austin rejected any pretext for Russian escalation and reaffirmed the value of continued communication amid Russia’s unlawful and unjustified war against Ukraine.” 

And within an hour of receiving Shoigu’s call on Sunday, Austin got in touch on phone with Wallace “to reaffirm the U.S.-UK defence relationship and the importance of transatlantic cooperation. Their conversation today was a continuation of their discussion at the Pentagon last week, which covered a wide range of shared defence and security priorities, including Ukraine.”  

Presumably, the fog of war is thickening. Or, possibly, Austin smelt a rat as Shoigu had in the meanwhile on Sunday also made calls to three other NATO capitals — Paris, Ankara and London — where they discussed the situation in Ukraine “which is rapidly deteriorating,” and Shoigu conveyed “concerns about possible provocations by Ukraine with the use of a ‘dirty bomb.’” (here)

Importantly, the British readout said Wallace reiterated to Shoigu the UK’s “desire to de-escalate this conflict… and the UK stands ready to assist.” 

It is entirely conceivable that all this could be the foreplay of a meeting between President Biden and President Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15-16, which seems increasingly likely. 

But there is also the backdrop of a massive Russian military build up in the Kherson Region in southern Ukraine in the direction of Nikolaev (and, possibly, Odessa.) Contrary to the western media reports, the real picture is that on the western side of the Dnieper, Russians may have established a big troop presence in their tens of thousands with logistical back-up that keep the frontline fully supplied and reserve forces backing up. The Russian defence line is reportedly hardening all across the Kherson front with the deployment of armoured weaponry and tanks. 

The Mayor of Nikolaev (also known as Mykolaiv) Oleksandr Syenkevych, an Ukrainian official, has ordered the evacuation of the civilian population in the city as heavy Russian bombardment continues. He told Christian Amanpour that Russian tanks are already in the vicinity of the city’s airport. (here

Evidently, things are moving toward a major escalation by mid-November. The capture of Nikolaev opens the road for Russian forces to advance toward Odessa 110 kms to the southwest. Control of Nikolaev and Odessa would mean control of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline and denial of access to the NATO warships based in Romania and Bulgaria.

Evidently, despite the Western media’s triumphalist narrative, the big picture is turning against the US-UK axis. Wallace and Sullivan would have pondered over it, for sure. 

Again, cracks are widening in the transatlantic system, as it dawns on European countries that they have fallen victim to the US’ grand strategy of hegemony. There is growing bitterness that American oil companies are making windfall profits. 

The forthcoming visit by the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to China is a massive statement in favour of globalisation in defiance of the Biden Administration’s strategy of “decoupling” from China. It signals a nuanced shift and return to pragmatism in Germany’s China policy. Official data shows that China-EU trade topped $800 billion for the first time in 2021 and two-way investment went beyond $270 billion in cumulative terms. In the first eight months of 2022, bilateral trade hit $575.22 billion, up by 8.8 percent and EU’s investment in China soared 121.5 percent year-on-year to $7.45 billion. 

War fatigue is also becoming a compelling reality. The EU has pledged 1.5 billion euros for Ukraine, but how long can it carry such an annual burden when its own economies are in recession? The UK economy is on the verge of collapse.  

Then, there is the “X” factor: sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. Putin wouldn’t have pointed finger at the US without corroborative evidence. The Kremlin said on Friday that the “truth” behind last month’s explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines “will surely surprise many in European countries if it was to be made public.” 

The bottom line is that Austin broke the ice on Thursday in consultation with Wallace and with Biden’s approval. In a conciliatory tone, the White House also issued an extraordinary statement by Sullivan on Friday expressing appreciation of the “rapid and unanimous vote in support of the Security Council resolution proposed by Mexico and the United States, to impose sanctions measures and hold accountable those actors who are undermining stability in Haiti.” 

Truly, isn’t it amazing that Russia voted for a US resolution imposing sanctions against yet another country in the Global South? 

With the midterms just ahead and the near certainty of Donald Trump’s bid for second term as president, Biden’s own  compass is going to be reset. Biden’s speech from the Roosevelt Room on Friday on deficit reduction projected the historicity of his “economic vision.” 

Suffice it to say that when Shoigu mentioned Ukraine’s “dirty bomb” to three NATO ministers in Europe, he was only echoing what some thoughtful Americans have been saying lately, namely, that the US’ vital interest in avoiding war with nuclear-armed Russia “may soon clash with the strategic war goals of Ukraine—i.e., full retrieval of Crimea and the Donbas,” as Patrick Buchanan, the influential ideologue of the Republican Party, wrote in the American Conservative magazine over the weekend. 

For sure, there is a waft of fresh, soft scents in the air. Does it presage an early spring? But to be a devil’s advocate, any suspension of the grand Russian offensive at this point may stir up a hornet’s nest in Moscow. Perhaps, that also forms part of the Anglo-American game plan.  

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Sunak: What He Doesn’t Want You to Know

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8 mins read

Prime minister Rishi Sunak – reportedly the richest MP in Parliament – would be a boon for the financial lobby, tax justice campaigners have warned.

As talk turns to the next Conservative leader, the man trounced by Liz Truss just weeks ago is now the favourite to replace her. But experts say Sunak has not been transparent with his finances and that his hedge fund background raises questions about his commitment to fighting tax avoidance.

His profile has risen sharply since he became chancellor in early 2020, just weeks before the first lockdown began. But critics say a slick public marketing campaign has disguised a man with an ultra-privileged background, who is a committed Thatcherite ideologue.

Here’s the openDemocracy guide to the man who might just end up as the UK’s next prime minister, originally published in January 2022.

He went to private school

Sunak marked his first year in the Exchequer by tweeting two photos of himself: one as a child in school uniform, and one as the chancellor, standing outside Number 11.

He wrote: “Growing up I never thought I would be in this job (mainly because I wanted to be a Jedi) […] It’s been incredibly tough but thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way.”

The message carefully tip-toed around his privileged upbringing. Until the age of 11, Sunak attended Oakmount Preparatory School and then the Stroud Independent Prep School,  the latter of which now charges fees of up to £18,500 a year.

From there, he studied at King Edward VI School in Southampton (now £17,000 a year) before moving to Winchester College (now £43,335 a year).

Five chancellors and one prime minister have attended Winchester, one of England’s oldest public boarding schools and a long-standing rival of Eton, before Sunak.

“[Sunak’s] tweet made me smile,” said Richard Beard, an author whose latest book ‘Sad Little Men: Private Schools and the Ruin of England’ assesses the private education system and the many politicians that have been through it.

“The idea that, while studying in Winchester College, he would have never thought he would be at the top of government is very unlikely to me. Leadership qualities are one of the things that they teach you and you’re bound to think of your future in those terms.

“So he would definitely have thought that that is the kind of job that he’d be in, even if he didn’t explicitly think of chancellor of the exchequer.”

In media profiles, Sunak’s allies describe him as “immaculate”, “calm” and “organised”, qualities befitting of a former Winchester head of college. None volunteer that he is empathetic or compassionate. When given examples of people who are experiencing hardship in Parliament or press interviews, as he was on ‘Good Morning Britain’ last year, Sunak listed policies in response, but offered no consolations.

Beard, whose book is partly based on his own experiences, believes all-male boarding schools emotionally harden their students. To survive, he says, boys cannot show any vulnerability among their peers.

“If you repress emotion for yourself then ultimately it becomes very easy to repress feelings for other people,” he argues.

And while boarding schools like Winchester may prepare students well to advance in politics, Beard says they instil a worldview that is far from ordinary.

“Money is at the centre of it all because everyone knows it costs a lot of money, including the boys, but the actual money is abstract. The needs of everyday life are simply taken care of for you,” said Beard.

“How can you actually then think in terms of people struggling for five pounds and ten pounds?”

He cut benefits

Last year, Sunak was heavily criticised for axing a £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit that had helped some of the poorest families through the pandemic. More than 200,000 would have been pushed into poverty as a result of the cut, according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Just weeks before the cut was confirmed in July, the chancellor requested planning permission to build a private swimming pool, gym and tennis court at the Grade II-listed Yorkshire manor that Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, purchased for £1.5m in 2015.

After several MPs from his own party spoke out against the Universal Credit cut, Sunak increased in-work benefits in his Autumn Budget – but not by enough to offset the cut.

He has a lot of money

The Sunaks’ Georgian mansion, where locals described attending parties with liveried staff pouring champagne from magnums, is not the only property they own. There is also the £7m, five-bedroom house in Kensington, west London; a flat, also in Kensington, that the couple reportedly keep “just for visiting relatives”; and an apartment in Santa Monica, California.

The chancellor’s extensive property portfolio is just one source of his wealth. After studying at Oxford University, Sunak went on to work for US investment bank Goldman Sachs for four years. He left to pursue a business degree at Stanford University in California, where he said meeting influential figures in the multi-billion US tech industry “left a mark” on him.

From there, Sunak had a stint working at hedge funds back in London. He was a partner at the Children’s Investment Fund (TCI) where he is believed to have made millions of pounds from a campaign that helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis.

Sir Chris Hohn, the fund’s founder paid himself a record £343m in the first year of the pandemic. TCI is ultimately owned by a company registered in the Cayman Islands, according to its accounts. Its philanthropic arm, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), donated £255m to charitable causes last year (full disclosure: openDemocracy has received funding from CIFF since 2019).

Sunak then left to co-found his own firm Theleme, which had an initial fund of £536m – and is also registered in the Cayman Islands.

His financial interests aren’t very transparent

The Cayman Islands are one of the world’s top offshore tax and secrecy havens. When an investment is made through a hedge fund in the Caymans, “nobody can possibly know where the money has come from”, said Alex Cobham, the chief executive of the Tax Justice Network.

Not all the money that goes through the Caymans is dirty, and hedge funds argue that they need to keep their investment strategies secret to be competitive.

Nevertheless, “it is probably the best, certainly the most reputable, way of allowing fairly questionable money in large volume to go into mainstream financial markets,” said Cobham.

An estimated $483bn (£357.62bn) a year is lost in cross-border tax abuse by multinational companies and by individuals hiding assets in havens like the Cayman Islands, according to the Tax Justice Network.

“Somehow, in the financial sector, we still have this idea that it’s basically smart to game the system. If these are the people, and the culture, that is coming into public life then we’ve got a real problem,” said Cobham.

When Sunak became a minister in 2019, he placed the investments he held from his years of working in finance into a ‘blind trust’. Such agreements are intended to avoid conflicts of interest by handing over control of assets to a third party, but whether that works in practice is questionable.

“These trusts don’t necessarily come with any legal mechanism to prevent the owner of the assets actually dictating what happens, or indeed seeing through any claimed blindness,” said Cobham.

“If politicians were willing to make the arrangement transparent, including the legal documents, we might have some confidence in them,” he adds.

Sunak has declared the trust in his entry on the Register of Ministers’ Financial Interests, but not the contents of it. The rest of his disclosures are remarkably minimal for a man with an estimated net worth of £200m.

Aside from the trust, he has listed his London flat and the fact his wife, Akshata Murty, owns a venture capital investment company, Catamaran Ventures, which the couple founded together in 2013.

Murty, who Sunak met at Stanford, is the daughter of Indian billionaire NR Narayana Murthy, who co-founded the IT company Infosys. Her shares in that firm are worth £430m alone, a fortune larger than the Queen’s and enough to make her one of the richest women in Britain.

The Murthy/Murty family (Narayana’s children have dropped the ‘h’ from their name) is reported to have invested part of their wealth through Catamaran Ventures, though how much is unclear. Sunak resigned his directorship of the company in 2015.

Ministers must declare the financial interests of their close family – including in-laws – which might give rise to a conflict, but Sunak has declared only one of the companies that his wife owns. A host of other family assets – including a £900m-a-year joint venture with Amazon in India, owned by his father-in-law – are not mentioned, according to the Guardian.

Sunak is said to have met with the government’s then head of propriety and ethics, Helen MacNamara, before becoming chancellor, to review what interests should be declared. MacNamara said she was satisfied with what had been registered at the time.

He has strong links to right-wing think tanks

Sunak reportedly led the hawks within the cabinet who opposed taking action when scientists recommended a circuit-breaker lockdown in September 2020, arguing that restrictions would be too economically damaging. Johnson delayed the decision and infections spiralled leading to a more punitive and lengthier lockdown in November.

“Sunak’s been the voice most consistently pushing for watering down of COVID restrictions in the cabinet. So, if you like, he is a kind of a logical continuation of that Thatcherite impulse within the Tories,” said Phil Burton-Cartledge, the author of ‘Falling Down: The Conservative Party and the Decline of Tory Britain’.

Soon after becoming an MP in 2015, Sunak wrote a report calling for the creation of ‘freeports’ around the UK for the right-wing think tank, Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), which was co-founded by Margaret Thatcher.

The policy idea – that tax-free, deregulated outposts will revitalise post-industrial coastal cities – was fittingly tried by the former PM in the 1980s, before being dropped by David Cameron in 2012 after proving unsuccessful.

Sunak also worked for another right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange – which, like CPS does not declare its donors – before becoming an MP, and has spoken at the Institute of Economic Affairs since becoming chancellor. All three think tanks have been consistently ranked among the least transparent in the UK.

He has a slick PR operation

During the pandemic, billionaires such as NR Narayana Murthy saw their wealth increase – Murthy’s fortune was up 35% to £2.3bn in 2021– while inequality between the richest and poorest grew. What, then, explains the seeming popularity of a former hedge fund manager like Sunak at a time in midst of a cost of living crisis?

Part of the answer might be the way Sunak has presented himself. Unusually for a chancellor, he hired the co-founder of a social media agency to manage his public image after he was appointed.

Since then, the content on his social media channels – from casual ‘ask me anything’-style YouTube videos to puppy pictures on Instagram – have more closely resembled a celebrity influencer than a frontrunner for Tory leader.

Jonathan Dean, an associate professor of politics at Leeds University, says this reflects broader political trends: “Forms of celebrity are increasingly prominent within politics, and that can either take the form of people who were conventional celebrities entering electoral politics, or it can also take the form of politicians trying to ape the publicity and performance traditionally associated with celebrity culture.”

Politicians draw on tactics from the world of celebrity influencers, Dean suggests, partly because they can mask their political views.

“A lot of politicians don’t have a particularly coherent or well-thought-through set of ideological commitments or kind of policy ideas. And I think certain forms of celebritisation allow them to circumvent that,” he said.

In Sunak’s case, it seems he has been even more successful in influencing journalists than the public. A picture of him working from home in a hoodie became a media frenzy after columnists from Vogue and GQ complimented his looks, which, in turn, spawned mockery on social media. It wasn’t long after that Sunak was being asked how he felt about being described as ‘Dishy Rishi’ in an interview with LadBible.

While Sunak may be the most popular Tory politician among the public, among party members he is second to the foreign secretary Liz Truss, his main rival for Tory leader if Johnson goes.

Burton-Cartledge suggests that this might be because he has not demonstrated the same zeal as Truss for pursuing a ‘war on woke’.

“He is of the same mould as Cameron: economically Thatcherite, but socially liberal,” said Burton-Cartledge. “That said, I can’t see him rowing back on the tough rhetoric about migrants in the Channel.”

Views expressed are personal

India: Agniveer is killing regiment traditions

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3 mins read

Gorkha Training Centres, like other training establishments, where recruits are trained have been out of work for more than two years as recruitment was suspended due to COVID though it was possible to recruit and train with suitable precautions just as festivals, religious gatherings, election rallies, elections and so on were being held. The government took a calculated risk with manpower shortages in combat and combat support units and saved funds on recruitment, training, and salaries for over two years. 60,000 soldiers become pensioners annually. The downside: operationally deployed units were deficient on average of 80 to 100 men. Some infantry battalions deployed in friction points in East Ladakh were short of roughly a company strength that is 100 soldiers.

Agniveer has altered beyond comprehension the concept of recruitment – a cross between voluntary service and conscription. With few jobs going, the military has been turned into an employment avenue. Only Army Medical and Dental Corps and Electric and Mechanical Engineers have been excluded from Agnipath- a fait accompli. The political leadership which understands little about camaraderie, esprit de corps, and regimental ethos, unfortunately, has begun to take whimsical decisions. Sadly no one including Service Chiefs dared to question Agnipath: they were just so scared.

A major problem that should have been foreseen has arisen in the recruitment of Gorkhas. Nepal has shifted the onus on the decision of four-year recruitment to the next government following elections on 20 November. Being a national security issue related to the 1947 Tripartite Agreement on Recruitment, more thought and discussion were needed, said the Nepalese government. Just as in India, there are few takers for Agnipath, in Nepal too. Nepal does not generate jobs for its skilled and unskilled youth. That’s why nearly one-third of the country of 30 million is outside the country and gainfully employed. Remittances from them, tourism, and recruitment in the Indian Army constitute the mainstay of the economy. Like in India, Nepal has a residual Maoist problem led by NetraBikram Chand. Similarly, several armed and unarmed groups are lying doggo in Madhesh. The last thing Nepal wants is hundreds of demobilized Agniveers injected into society. It is a difficult choice that the next government will have to make. They are known to politicize the recruitment of Gorkhas into the Indian Army.

There is a new self-created structural problem among Gorkha regiments. Previously 100 per cent of Gorkhas recruited hailed from Nepal. And many on retirement settled in pockets between the Chenab and Teesta rivers – the extent of the erstwhile Gorkhaempire. These Gorkhas are called Indian domiciled for purposes of recruitment and their share of recruitment has gradually increased, from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, while the remaining 60 per cent comes from Nepal. In 2016, a Gorkha battalion with 100 percent Indian-domiciled Gorkhas was raised on an experimental basis. 6/1 Gorkha Rifles was unique when it was born but later, it became difficult to sustain as Indian Gorkha recruits did not meet standards, even after lowering them. The failed experiment has led to a shortfall of Indian Gorkhas being met from Nepali Gorkhas. This lacuna has infected other Gorkha battalions as the 40 per cent quota for Indian Gorkhas is not being met. So instead of enhancing the quota of Nepali Gorkhas from 60 to 70 per cent, in its warped wisdom, the Army let other Gorkha regiments like 1 GR, 5 GR, and some others recruit Kumaonis and Garhwalis instead. 11 Gorkha Rifles,( late Gen Rawat’s Regiment) it is understood, refused to induct other ‘pahadis” to maintain the purity of KirantiGorkhas.

The government of Nepal is likely to decide by December whether it will allow Gorkhas to become Agniveers. Army Chief Gen Manoj Pandey told reporters after returning from a goodwill visit to Nepal where he was made honorary General of the Nepal Army, a historic tradition unique to India-Nepal relations, that if Nepal does not decide in time, their vacancies will be redistributed. To whom; he did not say. But it will be safe to assume Nepali-domiciled vacancies could go to Indian Gorkhas, who are already stressed by standards, and/or Kumaonis and Garhwalis for which there is a precedent. If Nepal decides not to opt for Agniveer, it will pose a serious problem for the future of the seven Gorkha regiments and the Gorkha Brigade as a whole. Were this to happen, it will be a big blow to the “Gorkha connect” and India-Nepal relations. New Delhi must fire on multiple cylinders to save the integrity of Gorkha regiments and the 75-year-old tradition.

CDS Gen Anil Chauhan, who is a blue-blooded 11 Gorkha officer is to shortly review Agnipath, especially the contingency if Nepal says ‘no’ to Agniveer. He will act in the national interest in recommending to Prime Minister Modi who has in the Nepali parlia to exempt the Gorkha regiments from Agnipath. This is vital for India-Nepal relations.

Sri Lanka: Consequences of Conscious Ignorance and Genealogical Absurdity

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6 mins read

Another global recession is imminent. The US, UK, EU are all expected to have lower growth rates and China’s growth has slowed down. India stands alone. There has been no discussion about its possible effect on Sri Lanka and what mitigating steps should be taken to cushion its ill effects on a country that is already bankrupt. Some 9.6 million people are reportedly in poverty according to a study by Peradeniya University. Its malnutrition levels have increased sharply. Public hospitals still have drug shortages. Inflation has risen very steeply with the highest increase seen with food items. Foreign exchange reserves are still precarious and there is yet, no agreed way forward economically and politically with opposition parties harping on elections without offering any alternatives to proposals put forward by the President. For many ordinary people, the absence of queues for petrol and gas appears to be the mirage that is hiding the quicksand below the surface.

The impending global recession is expected to hit the economies of all major powers to varying degrees, except India. As stated in the article ”The global recession and its impact on India”, a slowdown in the US economy was bad news for India during the last recession because Indian companies have major outsourcing deals from the US clients. India’s exports to the US have been developed over the years, but they  successfully weathered the great financial crisis of September 2008”

The article examines why India suffered so little during the previous global recession that impacted some of the biggest economies of the West, quoting, ”There are many factors that saved the Indian economy from the bad consequences of the global recession. India is a nation whose market is majorly dependent on agriculture; hence it supported India from getting laid off like other affected countries. In those times Indian banks and financial institutions had almost entirely avoided buying mortgage-backed securities and credit which turned out to be toxic and felled western financial institutions. While India’s merchandise exports were hit by the recession, service exports did not fall as IT and BPO exports held up good. Foreign direct investment went high despite the global financial crisis. Financiers reversed flows into India, but long-term investors in plants and factories kept moving on their ongoing projects”, unquote.

In the context of an impending global recession, the Sri Lankan government should begin discussions with India about what mitigating measures could be taken to prevent the current bad situation from getting worse. In all likelihood, it is not the IMF, but India which would be in a better position to assist Sri Lanka. However, in doing a bilateral deal, India too would lay down some conditions, both economic and political, and it is best to begin discussions and negotiations now rather than when the country has reached the next precipice.

Need for contingency planning

The ADB forecasts Sri Lanka’s GDP to be around 2.3% in 2023. This forecast however was prior to assessing the impact of the impending global recession on Sri Lanka. While economists will argue and predict varying degrees of impact, it is best to identify the worst-case scenario and undertake contingency planning to address such a scenario.

A study has revealed that 9.6 million (or 42% of the population) people of Sri Lanka are currently suffering from poverty. This is no doubt a direct result of the economic catastrophe faced by Sri Lanka now.

Prof. Wasantha Athukorala of the Department of Economics and Statistics at the University of Peradeniya said this in an article. What could possibly be worse than this situation? And could it be allowed to get worse?

What are the likely effects of a global recession on countries like Sri Lanka?

It could impact foreign direct investments. What is meagre today could get worse.  Sri Lanka’s exports, its lifeblood, could get affected due to lower demand. Whatever plans the BOI has and the Port City commission could be adversely affected.

Some countries that employ migrant workers, may reduce such employment opportunities if they are forced to scale back on their projects as a consequence of a global recession, and this will impact remittances from overseas migrants working in developed countries. Sri Lanka has experienced this with the COVID pandemic, and the slow rise of remittances is bound to decline, strangling and suffocating the country  

Tourism, a critical input to the economy which has just begun to show marginal increases will decline to cause much hardship to the industry and those directly and indirectly employed it, in addition to the impact on the country’s coffers.

If the country’s life-blood trifecta of exports, tourism and remittances are affected any further, it is difficult to imagine how the country would survive. 

Unemployment will rise and so will social unrest as a consequence. The country will not have enough funds to support the most affected as government revenue will not be there to provide such assistance. The depreciation of the rupee has already caused much misery to the people and a further depreciation which might be inevitable is bound to aggravate social unrest.

It is in this context that a politically consensual approach to the nature and extent of contingency planning, mitigation measures and broad strategic planning of the future direction of the economy becomes imperative. If not for today’s generation, but at least for the future generation. Such a task could have been achieved by the National Governance Council if only the country’s interest was placed above the personal interests of politicians.

Contrary to the belief that Ostriches bury their heads in the sand to save themselves from predators, which in fact is a myth, the BBC science focus explains why Ostriches engage in this practice, quote “As flightless birds, ostriches are unable to build nests in trees, so they lay their eggs in holes dug in the ground. To make sure that the eggs are evenly heated, they occasionally stick their heads into the nest to rotate the eggs, which makes it look like they’re trying to hide – hence the myth. An ostrich trying to hide from predators in this way wouldn’t last for long, and it wouldn’t be able to breathe, either!” end quote.

In referring to the situation in Sri Lanka where many people seem outwardly oblivious to the clear and present danger to the country and its people like Ostriches purportedly bury their heads in the sand, it is an insult to an Ostrich who is in fact sticking their heads into the sand for a purpose, as that is where their nests are and for the sake of their yet to be born chicks. One wishes human behaviour was more like that of Ostriches!

Collectively, the attitude of many people and the politicians who represent them, and even many religious leaders and civil society leaders, appear to live the myth surrounding Ostriches rather than the truth.

The attitudes displayed in the wake of current and potential hardships and disruptions, even greater poverty levels and malnutrition do not give an indication that the safety and well-being of future generations are being considered a priority.

While the President has proposed several governance initiatives including the national governance council, grama sevaka level people’s committees, changes to electoral laws, and many Parliamentary oversight committees as checks and balance mechanisms, no Opposition politician has presented an alternative governance model. The President’s proposals are matters for discussion and debate and improvement if they are regarded as inadequate, but the irresponsible Opposition has not done this.

It is no wonder that the current Parliamentary system and those in it are a ridiculed lot. It is no wonder that a genuine Aragalaya began with very ordinary people’s participation to discuss and debate the future, as the past and the present have been failures. The concept of the original Aragalaya is no doubt in the hearts and minds of many and it should not surprise anyone if the movement resumes and becomes active in all parts of the country.

In this context, it is well worth it for readers to watch and listen to a broadcast made by Venerable Galkande Dhammananda of the WalpolaRahula Trust on the birth of the Aragalaya before political vultures descended on it to feed on its message and regurgitate a politically motivated, violent message simply to change the deck chairs of a sinking Sri Lanka. Venerable Dhammananda’s broadcast should be watched by those whose hearts ache for Sri Lanka, and for the future generations of the country whose lives will be adversely affected if the political status quo continues.

A national economic summit

The Opposition political parties and those splinter groups withing the ruling party, should demonstrate their concern for the country, not by calling for elections at this juncture, but by joining together with the President and the governing party to agree on a broad program to address immediate and impending economic disasters. Such a program could be developed at a National Economic Summit with the participation of the business community, union leaders, academics, professional organisations, women’s organisations and other key participants, to develop a bi partisan economic plan for the next 10 years that includes a fiscal and monetary policy, an export development plan, a tourism plan, foreign direct investment plan, a plan for local revenue raising including taxation reform,and in addition, very importantly, a plan for food security.

If politicians do not change and take the lead to do this, and make a concerted, genuine effort to reverse the current economic catastrophe and undertake contingency planning to avoid even a worse debacle, people should exercise their right to change not just the politicians but the system that produces them.

XI Jinping and Putin are now the villains of peace

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3 mins read

There seem to be a number of things in common between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin. 

Whatever may be the electoral practice in  China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Putin have declared themselves as life President of their respective countries.  Both of them are presidents of countries which have enormous landscapes and huge mineral deposits and agricultural production.  Above all, both of them have huge greed for territorial expansion of their countries by fair or foul means and do not hesitate to use force and aggression to realise their greed. Further, it has now become obvious that both of them are merciless leaders and do not mind slaughtering innocent people in comparatively weak countries if such forceful actions would enable them to achieve their greed and ambitions.

China forcefully entered Tibet and slaughtered innocent and peace-loving Tibetans and is now ruling  Tibet by suppressing freedom China has imposed an iron curtain over Tibet.    China has entered into war with India more than once and is now occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and is claiming that Arunachal Pradesh, a province in India should be part of China. China is threatening to invade Taiwan, while it is suppressing the demand for freedom in Hong Kong with a heavy hand. China’s atrocities in suppressing the Uighurs in China have been widely reported and condemned all over the world.  Not only this, China is having disputes with Japan over Senkaku island and with other southeastern countries with regard to the South China Sea. Cleverly, it has brought several developing countries under it’s control by extending loans which they cannot repay.

Xi Jinping-led China is now seen as villain of peace by several affected countries and discerning observers all over the world and they seem to feel helpless.

Putin launched aggression against Ukraine, saying that it has to do this to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO which, according to Putin, would be a threat to  Russia’s territorial integrity. However, the fact is that NATO has not taken any decision to admit Ukraine as a member in NATO  and Putin’s stand that Ukraine would be a NATO member is a figment of his imagination. Obviously, Putin wants to occupy Ukraine as part of his territorial expansion scheme. In the last several months of the war, several thousands of Ukraine citizens have lost their lives, many of them have left Ukraine as refugees and infrastructure facilities in Ukraine have been extensively destroyed.

Putin-led Russia is now seen as villain of peace by several countries and discerning observers all over the world and they do not know how Russia’s aggression can be stopped.

What is noteworthy here is that both Xi Jinping and Putin do not care about world opinion and have no commitment to world peace. They are totally unconcerned about the sufferings of others due to their greed for territorial expansion and aggressive military actions.

In recent memory, the only person who can be compared to Xi Jinping and Putin is Hitler and there seem to be a lot of things in common between Hitler, Xi Jinping and Putin.

Tibet and Ukraine seem to be in the same boat now, as both these countries have become the victims of greed and merciless offence by Xi Jinping in the case of Tibet and Putin in the case of Ukraine.

 However, the difference between Tibet and Ukraine is that Ukraine is getting strong support from NATO countries and USA  to defend itself and sympathy from several other countries, whereas Tibet was left high and dry by every country and leaving Tibet at the mercy of merciless China.

One is not sure whether Tibetans now living in Tibet know about the developments in Ukraine at all, as no one from other countries in the world  is allowed to enter Tibet and Tibetans living in Tibet may not know about the world happenings at all.  However, Tibetans who are now living in several countries around the world can clearly compare the sufferings of the Tibetans at the hands of Xi Jinping-led China and the sufferings of citizens of Ukraine at the hands of Putin-led Russia.

Certainly, world peace is going for a toss now with Xi Jinping-led China and Putin-led Russia are using force to realise their greed and territorial expansion plans they do not care as to what many members of UNO say and many people in the world think about them.

It appears that the peace in the entire world is now at the mercy of Xi Jinping and Putin, who have emerged as the villains of peace.

Ensuring liberation of Tibet from Xi Jinping led China’s control and ensuring territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping Russia’s aggression are the two most desirable expectations and hopes of peace-loving citizens all over the world.

Views expressed are personal

How Not to Run the World

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6 mins read

Leaders are inevitably hemmed in by constraints. They operate in scarcity, for every society faces limits to its capabilities and reach, dictated by demography and economy. ~ Henry Kissinger, Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy

The Current Situation

Dr. Kissinger goes on to say in his latest book: “Any society, whatever its political system, is perpetually in transit…leaders think and act at the intersection of two axes: the first, between the past and the future; the second, between the abiding values and aspirations of those they lead”.

In world affairs, we seem to have reached what Thomas Friedman, The New York Times columnist called the Third Promethean Moment – a moment in time that destabilizes and radically changes the world around us. The two preceding such moments were when the industrial revolution met capitalism, and States rose to confront the emerging power of Russia in the Baltic region.  In this third Promethean Moment, which resonates Lenin’s statement that there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen, brings to bear the need to question what we euphemistically call “the rules based international order”, where the operative question is whether there is any one or any entity, or for that matter any concept or principle running the world.

Up until now, at least in bits and pieces, there was a concept running the world, which was the rules based international order.  It worked, insofar as the world adhered to this phenomenon, but in the past months and weeks it seems to have faded into oblivion. Take for instance, the latest condemnation in the United Nations of Russia’s annexation of certain parts of Ukraine – a sovereign country. On 12 October of this year, The United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution – which is nothing but the result of political compromise and which is destitute of legal legitimacy or enforcement powers –  calling on the international community not to recognize any of Russia’s annexation claims and demanding its “immediate reversal”. The Resolution was supported by 153 of the UN’s member States while 35 States, including China and India, abstained. Many African States also abstained, seemingly to avoid friction in their trade ties and to indicate their policies of non-alignment.

One could well ask: is this how to run the world?  Richard Haas, Head of the Council on Foreign Relations in the September/October 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs says: “On the one hand, the world is witnessing the revival of some of the worst aspects of traditional geopolitics: great-power competition, imperial ambitions, fights over resources. Today, Russia is headed by a tyrant, President Vladimir Putin, who longs to re-create a Russian sphere of influence and perhaps even a Russian empire. Putin is willing to do almost anything to achieve that goal, and he is able to act as he pleases because internal constraints on his regime have mostly disappeared. Meanwhile, under President Xi Jinping, China has embarked on a quest for regional and potentially global primacy, putting itself on a trajectory that will lead to increased competition or even confrontation with the United States.

But that is not all—not by a long shot. These geopolitical risks are colliding with complex new challenges central to the contemporary era, such as climate change, pandemics, and nuclear proliferation. And not surprisingly, the diplomatic fallout from growing rivalries has made it nearly impossible for great powers to work together on regional and international challenges, even when it is in their interest to do so”.

The Problem

The United Nations, with all its well-meaning diligence in confronting world problems, has its own inherent structural issue. On the one hand, Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter gives the Security Council the power to intervene militarily or non-militarily in order to preserve peace in any part of the world.

However, there is a snag. Nayomi Goonesekere, a Thomas Buergenthal scholar and former judicial fellow at the International Court of Justice, writing in Berkeley Journal of International Law addresses the problem head on: “Deadlock in the United Nations Security Council (the Security Council or Council) due to the veto power of its five permanent members obstructs the ability of the United Nations (the UN) to effectively address atrocity crimes. The procedural failures of the Security Council have led to the escalation of crisis situations around the world”.  The Security Council is comprised of 15-member member States (five permanent seats and ten rotating non-permanent seats). However, the Charter accords the veto power to only the five permanent members: the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China.

Ms. Goonesekere cites Article 27 paragraph 3 which provides that all matters of the Security Council pertaining to non-procedural matters must be made by “an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring vote of the permanent member”, meaning that any draft resolution in the Security Council on a non-procedural matter that is supported by nine or more members of the Council can be vetoed by a single permanent member (the permanent members are  China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

A Solution?

Authors Dani Rodrik and Stephen M. Walt, also writing in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs suggest a framework for a “better rule based international order” that would comprise four categories of binding agreement between States. “The first category—prohibited actions—would draw on norms that are already widely accepted by the United States, China, and other major powers. At a minimum, these might include commitments embodied in the UN Charter (such as the ban on acquiring territory by conquest), violations of diplomatic immunity, the use of torture, or armed attacks on another country’s ships or aircraft.

The second category includes actions in which states stand to benefit by altering their own behavior in exchange for similar concessions by others. Obvious examples include bilateral trade accords and arms control agreements.

When two states cannot reach a mutually beneficial bargain, the framework offers a third category, in which either side is free to take independent actions to advance specific national goals, consistent with the principle of sovereignty but subject to any previously agreed-on prohibitions.

The fourth and final category concerns issues in which effective action requires the involvement of multiple states. Climate change and COVID-19 are obvious examples: in each case, the lack of an effective multilateral agreement has encouraged many states to free-ride, resulting in excessive carbon emissions in the former and inadequate global access to vaccines in the latter. In the security domain, multilateral agreements such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have done much to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. Because any world order ultimately rests on norms, rules, and institutions that determine how most states act most of the time, multilateral participation on many key issues will remain indispensable”.

Conclusion

It seems inexorable that the defective United Nations structure will change or even be revised drastically.  It may even morph into a new entity given the geopolitical events that are making the Third Promethean Moment a compelling stimulus for radical changeOne of theprotagonistsof this change is very likely China which is spreading its tentacles throughout the world. Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and an expert on China says in his book The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the US and Xi Jing Ping’s China that  China will likely proceed towards “ creating its own network of new multilateral institutions outside the framework of the post 1945 UN and Bretton Woods system. While Xi has not described specifically what a future international order of the CCPs (Chinese Communist Party’s) choosing would ultimately look like, he has made plain that he does not intend China to simply replicate the current US led international order.  Rather, China will seek an order much more conducive to its political, ideological, and economic interests”.

Before this comes to pass something must be done.

In 2017 United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres initiated a reformation process for the Organization, the political aspects of which have the aspiration to reach the overarching goals “to prioritize prevention and sustaining peace; enhance the effectiveness and coherence of peacekeeping operations and special political missions and move towards a single, integrated peace and security pillar”. This seems a distant reality as inequality, both geopolitical and economic, has polarized nations and led to serious threats to the core essence of peace and security – the sovereignty of States and its inviolability.  Asia is inadequately represented, and African States have been excluded from permanent membership of the Security Council. 

This imbalance, when broken down shows the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) now accounting for three of the five permanent members (France, the United Kingdom, and the US). There is only one permanent position for the Eastern European Group (Russia), one for the Asia-Pacific Group (China), while Africa and Latin America remain destitute of representation. This has to be seriously looked into. Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs says “one possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, one shared by Japan and South Korea (perhaps in a two-year, one-year rotation), one for the ASEAN countries (representing the group as a single constituency), and a fourth rotating among the other Asian countries”.

Additionally, the African and Latin American countries would also have to be considered. This might be just the first step.  The second step would require a realistic look at the equity of Article 27 (3) of the Charter of the United Nations which has been already discussed.

Of MP’s and Markets in Britain?

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3 mins read

Pound Sterling has “skidded” by more than one US Cent to below $1.10 after the announcement that the Bank of England was pulling out of its intervention in extending its £65 Billion emergency arrangement to prop up the pound, beyond 14 October 2022. But, it will intervene, if found necessary?

MP’s in Parliament were also relieved after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng announced he was “rushing forward” his Debt Cutting Plan almost a month earlier than planned. This is in a bid to reassure jittery markets following weeks after his “Fiscal Event Statement,” which he made on 23 September 2022. 

The markets may be calmed when the Chancellor sets out more details about how he “intends to manage or massage the public finances”.

We are told, he will then release the forecasts on the State of the Economy from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) by 31 October 2022. 

Supply-side Economics

Supply-side economics, now also named “Trussonomics” by journalists, is based on the idea that the supply of goods and services within an economy is the main “driver of growth”. For many laymen, it is based on the idea that targeted tax cuts are more effective than general tax cuts to boost a falling economy, along with further post-Brexit deregulation of financial services. 

Many will know this same theory was tried out in Sri Lanka, of lowering tax rates to boost government revenue, through higher economic growth during the years of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. I need hardly state that it faltered and failed. It benefitted none other than the rich, who got away with paying fewer taxes, while those others who should have been liable, got away without, using the known excuses, only to us.

With markets in command today, there is little that the Bank of England or for that matter any Central Bank can do, like what our own Central Bank of Sri Lanka did until recently by “Quantitative Easing” (Q.E). We know the Bank of England dare not print more money for circulation. 

What are the options available?   

Every new government wants to better the previous government “testing out” innovative ideas, to curb inflation. But how much of it is achievable?

The Truss Government has repeatedly stated that what it wants is “delivery”. That “it’s plan will work”. We all know it is “doable” in normal times, but need I say these are not normal times? It is well known that governments as much as its citizens can take recourse in the fact that these are turbulent times, requiring the tried and tested, even though innovative ways are necessary, but take longer. 

Commentators are all ganging up on the Truss Government, perhaps, as a woman, they “think” she can be manipulated. But still, others know, “she is not for turning,” Some MPs of her party are at her throat now, because she rewarded those loyal who stood by her and may I say appeased others who contested her. Apparently, she has won over the voters in the Conservative Party in the country, but not her own MPs who “think of none other than the next election” and don’t see her leading them “up the hill” to victory. 

P.M. Liz Truss has been entrusted with a poisoned chalice. Besides, she has upset both President Joe Biden with her stance on Northern Ireland and of course President Putin. Like in Sri Lanka, you cannot please all the people all the time.

By trying to stimulate the British economy at a pace it is not ready, she has got a coloured Chancellor, to take on “more than he can chew and renegade on his fiscal statement”. Besides, she has got a Home Secretary, SuellaBraverman, to repel migration, who for what reason we don’t know, has criticised migrants from India. This has rightly angered India and according to reports (unverified), UK’s Trade Deal negotiated by Boris Johnson is on the verge of collapse.

Now, who knows, the Brits will be easily placed to blame others for all the blunders, including the IMF for chastising the Government for its intransigence.

The Brits, as far as I know, will always have a way out strategy, to get out of the mess. It was all planned well in advance not to have the OBR oversight along with the Fiscal Statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now the OBR will try to undo his overly anxious and ambitious plans to save the situation. Alternatively, there will be another “fallback strategy” as a diplomatic cover-up to the war in Ukraine. Who knows, they have a plan for the production of armaments, during the extended “Cold War with Russia?

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