Strange to say, but the Libyan economy which, as is well-known – depends much, if not almost exclusively, on oil extraction and sale, performed very well in 2017 even at a time of falling prices – currently made more complex by the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to crisis in consumer countries.
It should be recalled that the 2017 good performance of the Libyan economy came six years after the silly elimination of Colonel Gaddafi, with a +67% extraction peak compared to 2016.
In 2018 it went much worse, with a 17.9% increase, but in 2019 GDP grew by 9.9% and currently, at the end of 2020, a 58.7% vertical drop in GDP is expected.
Obviously there is an inextricable combination of severe internal political and military instability, pandemic-related crisis in consumer countries, as well as a different configuration of the struggle for world oil power, especially with the arrival of the U.S. shale oil.
Basically, oil extraction and refining in Libya have almost stopped, except in the last few weeks, when some oil wells (such as El Sharara or El Feel, among the largest ones Libya) are supposed to reopen “as soon as possible”, as the Minister said.
The two oil wells, however, are still controlled, by Khalifa Haftar’s LNA forces. Here is the clear link between political-military destabilization and the Libyan economic crisis.
Oil production fell by 0.1 million barrels per day as from April 2019, i.e. at the beginning of the clash between the GNA and the LNA, with a public deficit that reached 28.9% of GDP in 2019, but with inflation rate falling by 4.6% in 2019 alone, although expected to reach 22.3% by the end of 2020.
The oil barrel global cost is supposed to keep on falling also in 2021, but production in Libya continued to grow, at least until March 2020, which was the expiry date of the moratorium granted to Libya by OPEC.
Nevertheless, the specifically political level of negotiations between Libya and OPEC – which is what matters – will be mediated mainly by Saudi Arabia, notoriously pro-Haftar, and the United States, often uncritical supporter of the Tripoli regime. A complex mediation.
However, both General Haftar’s LNA and, in many ways, the various katibe linked to Tripoli’s regime – often rather loosely – are business groups – mostly illegal – and, as always happens in these cases, constitute illegal monopolies guaranteed by the monocratic exercise of power and force.
Therefore the “mafiazation” of the economy is the obvious result of a central State which is absent, substantially unlawful or perceived as such.
General Haftar has imposed his monopoly mainly on the export of scrap metal and the sale of refined oil products.
Many monopolies, ranging from food to the sale of technological materials, have been guaranteed more or less legally to Haftar’s LNA by the Tobruk House of Representatives.
The activities for controlling and managing the routes of transit and sending of sub-Saharan migrants to Italy are mostly connected to the parallel networks of Haftar’s LNA, but also to Tripoli’s networks of Zawiya and the “Al Nasr Martyrs” group, always operating in that city. But there are entire sectors of the Defence Ministry, the Libyan Coast Guard, the Police and the Interior Ministry cooperating and contributing, directly or indirectly, to the big bipolar system of illegal migrant trafficking and smuggling.
This is the second source of illegal income, after the smuggling of oil products. This is what happens when you destabilize an African coastal State, without any other project than the chatter of some French pseudo-intellectual on “human rights”.
It is the classic anti-Machiavellian paradox of modern politics. The heterogenesis of ends, as Giovanni Gentile put it.
But Haftar’s LNA, in particular, also funds itself directly with banks: Libya’s Central Bank in the East has, in fact, backed the wages and material of Haftar’s troops for three years, with the local equivalent of at least 6.7 billion U.S. dollars.
Furthermore, with a view to funding the State and its armies, both Tripoli and Benghazi used the credits granted by merchant banks – often manu militari or through corruption or political-military connections.
In 2018 alone, the government of Cyrenaica raised 7.9 billion U.S. dollars in loans, while the Tripoli area reached a budget of over 8.1 billion U.S. dollars only with loans from credit banks.
As mentioned above, this share includes the role of corruption, which is huge and even affects the officials of the anti-corruption structure in Tripoli – to the tune of millions of dollars. Obviously this applies also to the East.
With about 70,000 soldiers, Haftar’s LNA currently controls a larger territory than France, but the core of its financial operations is still the creation, on June 5, 2017, of the “Committee for Military Investment and Public Works”, led by Air Force Colonel al-Madani al-Fakhri, whose leaders immediately began to extort money from Cyrenaica’s businessmen. In the West, the various military katibe of “martyrs” shared control over all trade and productive activities, sector by sector.
Based on what can be inferred from “open” local sources, the GNA has extorted at least 5-6 billion dollars from businessmen and traders in 2020 alone.
Although Western propaganda always tends to see Haftar’s LNA as the den of all evils, the two forces are similar, as far as the illegal economy is concerned.
Furthermore, nobody knows how many counterfeit dinars were printed in Russia – possibly 4 billion, at least – with Gaddafi’s effigy, which passed through Malta, greasing many wheels.
In May 2017, during the Ramadan, the banknotes printed in Russia were distributed particularly to banks in the South and in the East.
The idea, after all, was not bad. Libyans do not trust banks, under any circumstances, even when they make withdrawals.
Hence, when it comes to paying wages and salaries, the rulers in both East and West hurry to print new money, which is easily exchanged with the banknotes probably printed in Russia.
So much so that if everyone accepts it at a lower value than the normal dinars, it becomes only a devalued currency, no longer counterfeit money.
This is fine, even better than the official dinar, for the “grey” and “black” economy.
Moreover, the financial-oil system does not directly support Haftar’s LNA, nor can it do so.
Only the state-owned National Oil Company (NOC) – which is largely answerable to the West – has the possibility to sell Libyan oil, and only the Central Bank of Tripoli can accept the related payments.
The fact is that all the military groups operating in Libya, in the East and in the West, are linked to the war economy and inextricably tied to the parallel para- or totally illegal economy.
The economic crisis, connected with the non-existence of a strong and credible central State, perpetuates the positive incentives for all those who take advantage of the State dysfunctions.
Dysfunctional and para-criminal economies are always based on three pillars: smuggling, extortion, theft of public resources and external patronage.
The latter can be of a Libyan potentate or, more often, of an “external player”: Turkey, Egypt, the Russian Federation, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Obviously Italy has disappeared from the Libya, since currently its foreign policy is little less than a joke.
The operations of all these countries’ Intelligence Services are largely rewarded by the business that becomes possible for the companies linked to all external Services, if they operate in Libya. The operations of the various intelligence agencies fund themselves on their own in Libya.
I have been told that, regardless of the external player, the operations of the various Intelligence Services generate 20-25% gains, which are guaranteed by the extortion ability of the various local katibe to which the external States refer.
There is no return from a criminal economy which generates a failed state and, above all, eliminates any alternative legal option.
In Cyrenaica, there is now a monopoly of the illegal use of force by Haftar and his LNA. It shows signs of overstretching and some old allies are showing signs of disillusionment. But soldiers from Darfur, Chad and even Mauritania could soon strengthen Haftar and allow a new offensive towards Tripoli, also considering the presence of Syrian jihadists in the GNA, sent by the Turkish Intelligence Service.
In the West, there is Tripoli and hence Fajez al-Sarraj’s government, often comically praised and hailed by Westerners.
In this case, however, there is another factor of structural weakness other than the LNA: the factionalism of the various katibe and their often completely interested and always partial relationship with the government in Tripoli.
Therefore, the analytical pair with which to study the connections between Tripoli and Benghazi is Factionalism/Ovestretch. Here is the fundamental dialectic.
Again using the very useful terms of the Mafia jargon, Tripoli’s militias are a “cartel”, while in the East there is a monopoly of unlawful and illegitimate force which, however, struggles to make itself credible.
Moreover, factionalism is inherent in the Arab and, above all, Bedouin soul: “my brother and I against our cousin, my cousin, my brother and I against the stranger”.
Thinking about the Middle East with the typically Western and European idea of the Nation-State is a mistake that will lead us to far greater disasters than those caused by the Sykes-Picot agreement, narrated in an old book with the now famous title, A Peace to end all Peaces.
Distribution of local gangs and oil wells, updated to May 2020, source
Then there is the powerful “stone guest” of the Libyan economy that we must never neglect, namely China.
It should be recalled that China abstained in the UN Security Council voting authorising military intervention in Libya against Gaddafi and also criticized NATO’s decision to create a no-fly zone. It even underlined the illegality of air strikes on the legitimate forces of Gaddafi’s regime. China was right.
Even when Gaddafi was in power, China was very active in Libyan infrastructure, as Libya paid very well.
At the time of Gaddafi’s fall, China had as many as 75 companies operating in Libya, with a turnover of 18.8 billion U.S. dollars.
The workers concerned were mainly the 36,000 Chinese, but also the about 28,000 Libyan ones or even many immigrants (Egyptians, Tunisians and Algerians).
Until 2011 there were 50 Chinese projects in Libya and it should be noted that Libya alone produced 3% of all Chinese oil imports, equivalent to 150,000 barrels a day.
At the time of West’s maximum manipulation against Gaddafi, China always tried to maintain all its business connections, obviously rejecting the NATO military mission in its entirety.
Moreover, like the Russian Federation, China also rejected the theory – typically Western-style in its naivety and arrogance- of Responsibility to Protect, i.e. the universal rule – stuff for boy scouts or elegant socialites-whereby States can intervene directly and militarily in other States when the protection of “human rights” is needed.
However, who establishes and ascertains the violation of human rights? A French pseudo-philosopher, a former follower of Pol Pot, two articles in the New York Times or possibly the statements of an NGO invented at the moment (in this respect, the story of NGOs working for migrants from Libya to Syria would be very interesting) or the lamentation of some “intellectuals” who do not even know where Tripoli is on the map?
Obviously, with a view not to being relegated to play the role of the only protector of the vilain Gaddafi, China finally abstained in voting on the UN Security Council Resolution on Libya, but immediately recognized the National Transitional Council (NTC), as the only semblance of unitary Libyan government left.
ENI also recognized it, well before others, exactly two days after the start of the insurgency against the Colonel, staged only by the East and by French submarines.
As early as the beginning of June 2011, China held its first meeting with Mohammed Jibril, the Head of the NTC. A few days later, the Head of the Department for West-Asian and Middle East Affairs of the Chinese government, Chen Xiaodong, visited Benghazi very carefully.
Obviously China pursues a policy of careful neutrality between the two factions, namely the GNA and Haftar’s LNA.
Officially China supports the GNA, which – in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in June 2018 -even accepted that Libya would be part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, albeit with some obvious twists in the map.
China, however, has also excellent relations with Haftar and, above all, with the Tobruk House of Representatives.
As to the Covid-19 pandemic, which – for those who know how to use it-is an opportunity for hegemonic penetration into the so-called “third” countries, China has rapidly included Libya in its humanitarian and health aid programmes, which are currently envisaged for as many as 82 countries.
However, what is the profound logic of Libya’s political and hence economic system? Unfortunately, we always see and interpret the non-Western world through the eyes of our often idiotic, fashionable ideologies. It is the biggest mistake we can currently make.
As seen above, the fact is that Libyan institutions have always been sectarian and biased in Libya, but not less powerful for this reason.
The British Military Administration (1942-1951) built up a great deal of political-tribal mediations in Libya even equal, if not greater, than Gaddafi’s. They largely remained in place, even after the 1969 coup of the “Free Officers”, organised by the Italian intelligence services in a meeting at Abano Terme.
Then there is the Senussi monarchy, originating from an Islamic esoteric sect, not from a specific family lineage of the monarch.
The last King Idriss was ousted by the coup of the Nasserian and Third- World Socialist “Free Officers”, led at the time by Gaddafi, who had been selected for that purpose by the Italian intelligence Services, during a comfortable meeting – I still remember – at an excellent hotel in Abano Terme.
The Senussi monarchy originated from a strange esoteric organization that started from a wide Islamic heterodoxy and finally shifted to a sort of quasi-Wahabi Koranic normativism, which is not at all contradictory, as it would appear in the poor minds of Westerners, who see only the servile adaptation to Western pluralism or simple “fanaticism”, old theme of the worst and naivest18thcentury Enlightenment.
As we all know, Gaddafi’s regime began in 1969, amidst counter-coup, attacks and adverse operations by the British intelligence services, which only thanks to Italy were wrecked. Revolutionary governments, however, choose only the faithful tribes, which are such because they are paid to be so.
In the case of the Senussi, the Cyrenaica Defence Forces operated – and King Idriss boasted he had never been to Tripoli – made up of agents and employees of the British Intelligence Services. Also the People’s Social Committee of Executives had military roles. Gaddafi had no mercy, of course.
The Warfalla tribe made several unsuccessful attempts on Colonel’s life. Therefore, after the attempted coup against the Colonel in 1991 it accepted a negotiation with Gaddafi.
Nevertheless, it was precisely because of the Gaddafian Jamahiriya (1973-1979) that the Libyan economic networks became ever more informal and sometimes tribal, but paradoxically ever less controlled by the Colonel’s regime.
Exactly those networks killed him and hence ousted him from power, although the poor informal military economic networks believed in the Western promises of an economy integrated in the world market and in an opening of Libya to foreign investment.
They wanted globalisation, without too many disasters, but the West gave them a useless failed state, even for Italy.
Hence within the Great Socialist Jamahiriya of the Libyan Arab People there still were popular committees that dealt with economy and business, often very seriously – but without any coordination and control by Gaddafi’s leadership, except for the NOC.
There were GECOL (General Electricity Company of Libya), a separate committee, as well as LISCO (Libyan Iron and Steel Company), ESDEF (Economic and Social Development Fund) and ODAC (Office of Development of Administrative Complexes).
A great role was played by the free zone of the port of Misrata, and by an endless number of autonomous committees, even in the Security Services, which, however, were linked to the abstract and even scarcely “informative” structure of Jamahiriya.
Generally speaking, the network of “people’s” Committees that managed the economy reported to the General People’s Congress, but everything was obviously in the hands of Gaddafi and his most trusted aides and collaborators – who, however, did not succeed in getting the news in time or let some operations slip away, given the level of informality of the Libyan economy, already pathological at the time.
The only two organizations with some degree of autonomy were the Central Bank of Libya, established in 1956, well before Gaddafi’s coup – which, however, originated from a UN-established institution, namely the Libyan Currency Committee – and obviously the National Oil Corporation (NOC), created in 1970, immediately after Gaddafi’s coup.
There is also the Libyan Investment Fund (LIA), the Libyan Sovereign Fund that supports 15 other apparently autonomous funds or financial initiatives.
It was established in 2006. At the beginning, in the good years of oil revenues, LIA had an endowment of as many as 60 billion U.S. dollars.
Gaddafi’s son, Saif-al Islam, was actually its leader. But, after the anti-Gaddafi “revolution”, between 2005 and 2010, also the experts who seemed capable of privatizing anything arrived. Called by France, the United States, the Libyan elite itself, but not by Italy, of course.
At that juncture, given the solidity of the old informal Gaddafian economies and of those following the destruction of the Libyan State, the new Agencies of Libyan liberals arrived. Hence the Economic Development Board and the Privatization and Investment Board were established, in addition to the Public Projects Authority.
You privatize when there is capital available, otherwise to whom do you sell in a failed state where those who have money are already out of Libya?
As early as the phase in which the war between Eastern and Western Libya was starting to emerge, the local governments had to “enlist” technicians, experts, economists and business jurists to understand the intricacies of post-Gaddafi economic structures which, in any case, had developed – in their baroque and elaborate complexity – since the last years of Gaddafi’s life.
We could define Libya between Gaddafi and the two current governments as an overlap between the oil rentier States, the Socialist autocracies typical of the Third International and the chaotic and incoherent liberalization attempts that the Americans made in the old Socialist economies of the East after 1989.
This adds to the unpreparedness and factionalism of the new economic and political ruling classes that came to power after Gaddafis’ elimination.
The Colonel’s technocracy was often better than the current ones.
No economic unifying criteria were visible among the various factions that fought and then managed the 2011 insurgency, but all this remained even in the years 2013-2015, when the high oil barrel prices gave hope that fresh capital would right the wrongs of an authoritarian planning that added to the factionalism of the economy and the Stock Exchange short-sighted naivety of post-Soviet liberalisations.
Meanwhile, the mass of wages and salaries, in addition to subsidies, increases every year regardless of the amount of oil revenues.
There are therefore no quick fixes or effective solutions for a mechanism that is now so structured.
The World Bank predicts that oil rents will be 47% of GDP by the end of 2021, but wages and salaries will increase by up to 49%.
Public subsidies for oil or food will be equally high, to the tune of 10.6% of GDP, but then how will debt be refinanced?
In Tripoli – but the situation in Benghazi seems similar – the solution will be the cash advance from the Central Bank of Libya, in addition to the sale of Treasury Bonds, especially in Cyrenaica.
How Bangladesh became Standout Star in South Asia Amidst Covid-19
Bangladesh, the shining model of development in South Asia, becomes everyone’s economic darling amidst Covid-19. The per capita income of Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2020-21 is higher than that of many neighbouring countries including India and Pakistan. Recently, Bangladesh has agreed to lend $200 million to debt-ridden Sri Lanka to bail out through currency swap. Bangladesh, once one of the most vulnerable economies, has now substantiated itself as the most successful economy of South Asia. How Bangladesh successfully managed Covid-19 and became top performing economy of South Asia?
In March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared their independence from richer and more powerful Pakistan. The country was born through war and famine. Shortly after the independence of Bangladesh, Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. national security advisor, derisively referred to the country as a “Basket Case of Misery.” But after fifty years, recently, Bangladesh’s Cabinet Secretary reported that per capita income has risen to $2,227. Pakistan’s per capita income, meanwhile, is $1,543. In 1971, Pakistan was 70% richer than Bangladesh; today, Bangladesh is 45% richer than Pakistan. Pakistani economist Abid Hasan, former World Bank Adviser, stated that “If Pakistan continues its dismal performance, it is in the realm of possibility that we could be seeking aid from Bangladesh in 2030,”. On the other hand, India, the economic superpower of South Asia, is also lagging behind Bangladesh in terms of per capita income worth of $1,947. This also elucidates that the economic decisions of Bangladesh are better than that of any other South Asian countries.
Bangladesh’s economic growth leans-on three pillars: exports competitiveness, social progress and fiscal prudence. Between 2011 and 2019, Bangladesh’s exports grew at 8.6% every year, compared to the world average of 0.4%. This godsend is substantially due to the country’s hard-hearted focus on products, such as apparel, in which it possesses a comparative advantage.
The variegated investment plans pursued by the Bangladesh government contributes to the escalation of the country’s per capita income. The government has attracted investments in education, health, connectivity and infrastructure both from home and abroad. As a long-term implication, investing in these sectors helped Bangladesh to facilitate space for businesses and created skilled manpower to run them swiftly. Meanwhile, the share of Bangladeshi women in the labor force has consistently grown, unlike in India and Pakistan, where it has decreased. And Bangladesh has maintained a public debt-to-GDP ratio between 30% and 40%. India and Pakistan will both emerge from the pandemic with public debt close to 90% of GDP.
Bangladesh’s economy and industry management strategy during Covid-19 is also worth mentioning here since the country till now has successfully protected its economy from impact of pandemic. At the outset of pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions hampered the country’s overall productivity for a while. To tackle the pandemic effect, Bangladesh introduced improvised monetary policy and fiscal stimuli to bring them under the safety net which lifted the situation from worsening. Government introduced stimulus package which is equivalent to 4.3 percent of total GDP and covers all necessary sectors such as industry, SMEs and agriculture. These packages are not only a one-time deal, new packages are also being announced in course of time. For instance, in January 2021, government announced two new packages for small and medium entrepreneurs and grass roots populations. Apart from economic interventions, the government also chose the path of targeted interventions. The government, after first wave, abandoned widespread lockdown and adopted the policy of targeted intervention which is found to be effective as it allows socio-economic activities to carry on under certain protocols and helps the industries to fight back against the pandemic effect.
Another pivotal key to success was the management of migrant labor force and keeping the domestic production active amidst the pandemic. According to KNOMAD report, amidst the Covid-19, Bangladesh’s remittance grew by 18.4 percent crossing 21 billion per annum inflow where many remittance dependent countries experienced negative growth rate. Because of the massive inflow of remittance, the Forex reserve of Bangladesh reached at 45.1 billion US dollar.
Bangladesh’s success in managing COVID19 and its economy has been reflected in a recent report “Bangladesh Development Update- Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to strengthen Competitiveness,” published by World Bank. Bangladesh’s economy is showing nascent signs of recovery backed by a rebound in exports, strong remittance inflows, and the ongoing vaccination program. Through financial assistance to Sri Lanka and Covid relief aid to India, Bangladesh is showcasing its rise as an emerging superpower in South Asia. That is why Mihir Sharma, Director of Centre for Economy and Growth Programme at the Observer Research Foundation, wrote in an article at Bloomberg that, “Today, the country’s 160 million-plus people, packed into a fertile delta that’s more densely populated than the Vatican City, seem destined to be South Asia’s standout success”. Back in 2017, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) report also predicted the same that Bangladesh will become the largest economy by 2030 and an economic powerhouse in South Asia. And this is how Bangladesh, a development paragon, offers lessons for the other struggling countries of world after 50 years of its independence.
Build Back Better World: An Alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative?
The G7 Summit is all the hype on the global diplomatic canvas. While the Biden-Putin talk is another awaited juncture of the Summit, the announcement of an initiative has wowed just as many whilst irked a few. The Group of Seven (G7) partners: the US, France, the UK, Canada, Italy, Japan, and Germany, launched a global infrastructure initiative to meet the colossal infrastructural needs of the low and middle-income countries. The Project – Build Back Better World (B3W) – is aimed to be a partnership between the most developed economies, namely the G7 members, to help narrow the estimated $40 trillion worth of infrastructure needed in the developing world. However, the project seems to be directed as a rival to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Amidst sharp criticism posed against the People’s Republic during the Summit, the B3W initiative appears to be an alternative multi-lateral funding program to the BRI. Yet, the developing world is the least of the concerns for the optimistic model challenging the Asian giant.
While the B3W claims to be a highly cohesive initiative, the BRI has expanded beyond comprehension and would be extremely difficult to dethrone, even when some of the most lucrative economies of the world are joining heads to compete over the largely untapped potential of the region. Now let’s be fair and contest that neither the G7 nor China intends the welfare of the region over profiteering. However, China enjoys a headstart. The BRI was unveiled back in 2013 by president Xi Jinping. The initiative was projected as a transcontinental long-term policy and investment program aimed to consolidate infrastructural development and gear economic integration of the developing countries falling along the route of the historic Silk Road.
The highly sophisticated project is a long-envisioned dream of China’s Communist Party; operating on the premise of dominating the networks between the continents to establish unarguable sovereignty over the regional economic and policy decision-making. Referring to the official outline of the BRI issued by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the BRI drives to: “Promote the connectivity of Asian, European, and African continents and their adjacent seas, establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road [Silk Road], set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks and realize diversified, independent, balanced, and sustainable development in these countries”. The excerpt clearly amplifies the thought process and the main agenda of the BRI. On the other hand, the B3W simply stands as a superfluous rival to an already outgrowing program.
Initially known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), the BRI has since expanded in the infrastructural niche of the region, primarily including emerging markets like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The standout feature of the BRI has been the mutually inclusive nature of the projects, that is, the BRI has been commandeering projects in many of the rival countries in the region yet the initiative manages to keep the projects running in parallel without any interference or impediment. With a loose hold on the governance whilst giving a free hand to the political and social realities of each specific country, the BRI program presents a perfect opportunity to jump the bandwagon and obtain funding for development projects without undergoing scrutiny and complications. With such attractive nature of the BRI, the program has significantly grown over the past decade, now hosting 71 countries as partners in the initiative. The BRI currently represents a third of the world’s GDP and approximately two-thirds of the world’s entire population.
Similar to BRI, the B3W aims to congregate cross-national and regional cooperation between the countries involved whilst facilitating the implementation of large-scale projects in the developing world. However, unlike China, the G7 has an array of problems that seem to override the overly optimistic assumption of B3W being the alternate stream to the BRI.
One major contention in the B3W model is the facile assumption that all 7 democracies have an identical policy with respect to China and would therefore react similarly to China’s policies and actions. While the perspective matches the objective of BRI to promote intergovernmental cooperation, the G7 economies are much more polar than the democracies partnered with China. It is rather simplistic to assume that the US and Japan would have a similar stance towards China’s policies, especially when the US has been in a tense trade war with China recently while Japan enjoyed a healthy economic relation with Xi’s regime. It would be a bold statement to conclude that the US and the UK would be more cohesively adjoined towards the B3W relative to the China-Pakistan cooperation towards the BRI. Even when we disregard the years-long partnership between the Asian duo, the newfound initiative would demand more out of the US than the rest of the countries since each country is aware of the tense relations and the underlying desperation that resulted in the B3W program to shape its way in the Summit.
Moreover, the B3W is timed in an era when Europe has seen its history being botched over the past year. Post-Brexit, Europe is exactly the polar opposite of the unified policy-making glorified in the B3W initiate. The European Union (EU), despite US reservations, recently signed an investment deal with China. A symbolic gesture against the role played by former US President Donald J. Trump to bolster the UK’s exit from the Union. As London tumbles into peril, it would rather join hands with China as opposed to the democrat-regime of the US to prevent isolation in the region. Despite US opposition, Germany – Europe’s largest economy – continues to place China as a key market for its Automobile industry. Such a divided partnership holds no threat to the BRI, especially when the partners are highly dependent on China’s market and couldn’t afford an affront to China’s long envisaged initiative.
Even if we assume a unified plan of action shared between the G7 countries, the B3W would fall short in attracting the key developing countries of the region. The main targets of the initiative would naturally be the most promising economies of Asia, namely India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh. However, the BRI has already encapsulated these countries: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC) being two of the core 6 developmental corridors of BRI.
While both the participatory as well as the targeted democracies would be highly cautious in supporting the B3W over BRI, the newfound initiate lacks the basic tenets of a lasting project let alone standing rival to the likes of BRI. The B3W is aimed to be domestically funded through USAID, EXIM, and other similar programs. However, a project of such complex nature involves investments from diverse funding channels. The BRI, for example, tallies a total volume of roughly USD 4 to 8 trillion. However, the BRI is state-funded and therefore enjoys a variety of funding routes including BRI bond flotation. The B3W, however, simply falls short as up until recently, the large domestic firms and banks in the US have been pushed against by the Biden regime. An accurate example is the recent adjustment of the global corporate tax rate to a minimum of 15% to undercut the power of giants like Google and Amazon. Such strategies would make it impossible for the United States and its G7 counterparts to gain multiple channels of funding compared to the highly leveraged state-backed companies in China.
Furthermore, the B3W’s competitiveness dampens when conditionalities are brought into the picture. On paper, the B3W presents humane conditions including Human Rights preservation, Climate Change, Rule of Law, and Corruption prevention. In reality, however, the targeted countries are riddled with problems in all 4 categories. A straightforward question would be that why would the developing countries, already hard-pressed on funds, invest to improve on the 4 conditions posed by the B3W when they could easily continue to seek benefits from a no-strings-attached funding through BRI?
The B3W, despite being a highly lucrative and prosperous model, is idealistic if presented as a competition to the BRI. Simply because the G7, majorly the United States, elides the ground realities and averts its gaze from the labyrinth of complex relations shared with China. The only good that could be achieved is if the B3W manages to find its own unique identity in the region, separate from BRI in nature and not rivaling the scale of operation. While Biden has remained vocal to assuage the concerns regarding the B3W’s aim to target the trajectory of the BRI, the leaders have remained silent over the detailed operations of the model in the near future. For now, the B3W would await bipartisan approval in the United States as the remaining partners would develop their plan of action. Safe to say, for now, that the B3W won’t hold a candle to the BRI in the long-run but could create problems for the G7 members if it manages to irk China in the Short-run.
COVID-19: New Dynamics to the World’s Politico-Economic Structure
How ironic it is that a virus invisible from a naked human eye can manage to topple down the world and its dynamics. Breaking out of CoronaVirus, its spread across the globe and the diversity of consequences faced by the individual states all make it evident how the dynamics of the world could be reversed in months. Starting from the blame games regarding coronavirus to its geostrategic implications and the entire enigma between COVID-19 and politics, COVID-19 and economies have shaken the world. Whether it is the acclaimed super power, struggling powers or third world states or even individuals, the pandemic has unveiled the capability and credibility of all, especially in political and economic domains. Wearing masks in public, avoiding hand shake and maintaining distance from one another have emerged as ‘new normal’ in the social world of interaction.
Since the pandemic has locked its eyes upon the globe, world politics has taken an unfortunate drift. From the opportunities for leaders to abuse power during state of emergency (which is imposed in different states to limit the spread of novel Coronavirus) to the likelihood of rise of far-right nationalists to the emergence of ‘travel bubbles’ between states (such as New Zealand and Australia) and the increased chances of regionalism in post-pandemic world to the new terrorist strategies to gain support and many others, all are result of the pandemic’s impact on the political world, one way or the other. Since the end of WWII, the United States has taken the role of global leadership and after the Cold War, it became more prominent as it was the sole superpower of the world. Talking ideally, pandemics are perceived to bring up global cooperation but in the COVID-19 scenario it has started a whole new set of debates, sparkled nativism versus globalization and the sharp divide in global politics has drifted the focus from overcoming the global pandemic through global response to inward looking policies of leaders.
Covid-19 has impacted every sphere of life, be it social, political, health or economic. The pandemic itself being the result of a globalized world has affected globalization badly. It is the best illustration of the interrelation of politics and economics and how the steps in one sector impact the other in this interdependent, globalized world. Political actions such as restricting travel had drastic economic impacts especially to the countries whose economy is largely dependent on tourism, foreign investment etc. Similarly, economic actions such as limiting foreign products’ access had political implications in the form of sudden unemployment and downturn in living standards of people.
For the first time in history, oil prices became negative when its demand suddenly dropped when industries were shut down almost everywhere. Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil clash which led to increased oil production by Saudi Arabia further complicated the situation. This unprecedented drop in oil demand and consequently its price would only help in the economic recovery of countries. Covid-19 has impacted three sectors badly. First of all, it affected production as global manufacturing has declined due to decrease in demand. Secondly, it has created supply chain and market disruption. Finally, lockdowns affected local businesses everywhere. Bad impact aside, pandemic has led to the change in demand of products. Instead of investment and foreign trade, states having strong medical and textiles industries have got the opportunity of increasing exports. This is because there are requirements of face masks everywhere to avoid contagion. Need for medical instruments have also increased such as ventilators in developing countries specially.
The only positive impact of Coronavirus is that it fostered environmental cleanliness. It is said that it can avert a climate emergency but the fact is that, as soon as the lockdown will be eased and businesses will begin returning into functioning, economic growth and prosperity will be prioritized over sustainability and we might even witness, more than ever, carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Novel coronavirus has brought new dynamics to the world’s politico-economic structure. While the world has the opportunity to come close for cooperation and consensus to fight it, we might witness increased regionalism in the post-pandemic world as a cautious measure and alternative where crisis management would be more cooperative and quick. There is a likelihood of the emergence of an international treaty or regime to ban bio-weapons. While the prevalence of political optimism is not assured in the post-pandemic world, we are likely to see the interdependent economic world, as before, to overcome the economic slump and revive the global economy.
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