Friday, 20 March 2015

Made in China? By The Economist print edition: Leaders March 14th 2015

BY MAKING things and selling them to foreigners, China has transformed itself—and the world economy with it. In 1990 it produced less than 3% of global manufacturing output by value; its share now is nearly a quarter. China produces about 80% of the world’s air-conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones and 60% of its shoes. The white heat of China’s ascent has forged supply chains that reach deep into South-East Asia. This “Factory Asia” now makes almost half the world’s goods.

China has been following in the footsteps of Asian tigers such as South Korea and Taiwan. Many assumed that, in due course, the baton would pass to other parts of the world, enabling them in their turn to manufacture their way to prosperity. But far from being loosened by rising wages, China’s grip is tightening. Low-cost work that does leave China goes mainly to South-East Asia, only reinforcing Factory Asia’s dominance. That raises questions for emerging markets outside China’s orbit. From India to Africa and South America, the tricky task of getting rich has become harder.

Printing Money to Help the Poor

In much of the Western world, two highly successful economic policy initiatives are coming to an end. Quantitative easing, the creation of money by central banks to purchase financial assets, is likely to have run its course in most countries by the end of 2015. Next year is also the deadline for hitting the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals—eight ambitious global aid targets, ranging from halving extreme poverty to reducing child mortality and combating HIV.
Both initiatives have changed the world for the better. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, quantitative easing reawakened the world economy’s “animal spirits” when nothing else seemed capable of doing so.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

My Advice to President Uhuru

Mr President, after several years of writing opinion pieces for the SIASA pullout, this will be the first time I address myself to you in person. I trust you will find my thoughts most helpful.

I'm not a prophet, but long before you and your deputy Ruto were an item, while both of you were for all intents and purposes nemesis, I knew you would team up in order to fight the ICC and even wrote about it in this very pullout.

Back then, I foresaw that the only way to defeat the ICC was for you to team up with Ruto and fight the ICC. I will admit that I don't know whether it was my opinion piece that opened your eyes to this fact or not, but the fact is that you teamed up and successfully seized power - fairly and squarely.

And just as I thought would happen, you out maneuvered the ICC prosecutor and she was left with no choice but to withdraw the case against you citing a lack of sufficient evidence to proceed with the case, never mind that she cited a lack of cooperation from you.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Mugabe-AU Chair Paradox

Last week the African Union held its Summit - the highest decision making organ of the AU - in which, according to many people mostly from the West, the bizarre happened. President Robert Mugabe was appointed the AU Chairman for the next one year.

As the AU chairperson, President Mugabe is the ceremonial head of the AU. And as the AU Chairman, Mugabe will be the official representative of continent in various international forums including the G8 and G20 summit.

Across the African continent, the appointment of President Mugabe as the AU Chairman has attracted both praise and condemnation in equal measure.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

My Economic Vision for Kenya

For over 50 years we Kenyans have worked hard to establish a just and democratic society. Through blood sweat and tears we have managed to make significant achievements in our struggle for democracy, the most notable of which was the enactment of a new constitution that is considered one of the most progressive constitutions in the whole world.

Our decades long preoccupation with democratic reforms was absolutely necessary because democracy and freedom are the foundations of a just and prosperous nation. And it is not over. We must remain ever so vigilant because democracy is not self executing and there will always be elements in our society just as it is any free society that seeks to claw back our freedom and subjugate our people.

But freedom and democracy must be accompanied with ecomomic development without which our freedom and democratic gains are rather meaningless. Unfortunately for us, our nation's pace of our economic growth and development has not matched the pace and achievements of our democratic gains.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Islamic State and Pentagon's Turf War

Nothing in President Obama's four-part strategy to defeat and ultimately destroy the Islamic State group has generated as much debate as his firm decision not to have American ground troops involved in front-line combat in Iraq or Syria for that matter. The eccentric policy which is at the very heart of the president's IS strategy has pitted the White House against Pentagon something which, though highly consequential, is an inconvenient fact which the elite media, it seems, would rather gloss over at this time.

The reason behind this selective scrutiny of the issue by the media is the fact that highlighting the issue may be incongruous with the war effort which in the minds of Americans, the majority of whom are deeply concerned about IS and want its threat neutralised, might be considred unpatriotic. That is feared could potentially lead to an unprofitable backlash from the public and as in many businesses these days, profits triumph over principles.

This regrettable state of affairs is reminiscent of the catastrophic failure of elite media in the run up to the 2003 Iraq invasion and should be challenged. A proper public scrutiny of Obama's counter-terrorism strategy against IS especially in the light of such glaring past mistakes in Iraq is warranted and the media have a duty to facilitate if not lead that scrutiny.

The President who is also the Commander-in-Chief is resolute on his decision not to have American boots on the ground in Iraq. His decision is informed by the apparent futility of using force as the only or primary component of dealing with threats to US interests and security emanating from radical ideology. And when it comes to the use of force, nothing is more counterproductive than having ground forces in the front line.

Their mere presence, worse than anything, smacks of an occupation which is the one thing that alienates the entire population the most and creates more enemies in the Muslim world. Radical ideology itself also needs their presence to validate its core beliefs and attitudes. It impassions its ideologues message that fans the embers of hate, recruits new fighters, and emboldens the rank and file jihadists. There is no question however on the usefulness of having boots on the ground in combat situations but their efforts and sacrifices only leads to Pyrrhic victory which ultimately empowers those who thrive on violent conflicts.

Chief among those who harbor reservations about Obama's contrivance to degrade and destroy IS is none other than the cantankerous-looking Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. General Dempsey's veiled preference for boots on the ground and show of force is nothing more than Pentagon's macho posturing and its primary objective is to validate America's superpower status in hopes of warding off real and perceived threats to America's hegemony.

Apparently the prevailing view at the Pentagon and among Republicans is that America's credibility as a superpower depends on its ability to project awe inspiring power.

The most striking thing about this debate is the way nobody seems to have figured out, except for Gen. Dempsey, is that what Obama prescribed was not "an F-16 strategy" as House Speaker John Boehner put it but rather an intensification and expansion of the drone warfare, which is Obama's idea of a smart approach to the war on terror. Unfortunately for Gen. Dempsey, the drone program is largely under the control of the Central Intelligence Agency and not the military where he has full control.

The president promised that the drone program would be transferred from the CIA to the Pentagon, but that has not happened yet. Therefore, the CIA, not Pentagon, will ultimately be leading the war on terror and that's what's got Dempsey on edge.

For congress, the divergence between the White House and Pentagon will merely lead to fluffy congressional debates on the president's war powers while for some White House staffers, Gen. Dempsey's suitability as Chair of Joint Chiefs could become the idiomatic elephant in the room.

To be sure, it is not that Dempsey or Pentagon for that matter does not appreciate the new kind of war that terrorism presents, it is Pentagon's suitability to lead that war that should be the focus of a serious debate.

Pentagon's penchat for machoism certainly does not auger well in the war on terrorism as it tends to validate the radical ideology behind terrorism.
On the hand, the CIA's demand for secrecy augers perfectly well for the war on terror as long as there are no major blunders and there is zero collateral damage. But is that feasible in the theatre of war? No!

The tragic blunders of the use of drones in Yemen, Afghanistan, and northern Pakistan speak for themselves. Southern Syria which is where IS will retreat to, will soon become the new theatre of Obama's drone warfare and it remains to be seen how that warfare will be conducted and if America has learnt anything from northern Pakistan and Yemen.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Trouble with Obama's IS Strategy

President Obama's much awaited strategy for degrading and ultimately destroying the Islamic State (IS) group was unveiled last week to a captive international audience that has been horrified by the sheer savagery of the group. There is no doubt that IS poses a threat to global peace and stability and as such it had to be confronted through a concerted millitary effort.

The long over due four part strategy has by and large been welcomed across the world with the usual exception of Russia and China, Syria's ever-reliable allies, which have expressed reservations in regards to Syria's territorial integrity and of course by Al Assad's Syria, which insists that it must be co-opted in any action against IS within its boarders, never mind that it has no control over large parts of Syria which are under IS control and Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Al Assad.

There is little doubt that Obama's strategy will, at least in the short-term, degrade IS to the point of reducing it to a rag tag band of rebels without control over any territory in Iraq. The same however cannot be said of Syria, the group's safe haven, which is where the jihadists will eventually retreat to once they are routed in Iraq.

What however is debateable about Obama's IS strategy is its ability to achieve its main objective of destroying the group. If the decade-long war on al-Qa'ida is anything to go by, IS won't be ultimately destroyed through military effort alone. In fact, as a result of this intervention, IS will in all probability mutate into something else potentially more virulent and resilient than itself in pretty much the same way it metamorphosed from al-Qaida to Islamic State.

The Trouble with President Obama's IS strategys is that it places very little emphasis on addressing the Islamist ideology which is the root cause of the Islamic State problem. Deploying the military to degrade and destroy the IS group will certainly disrupt the group and help put a temporary stop to its murderous campaign.

However, a comprehensive strategy for countering the Islamist ideology that is propelling IS and other jihadist groups is infinitely more important and effective in dealing with the persistent problem of jihadism. Obama's strategy pays lip service to the underlying problem of Islamist ideology and that is its greatest shortcoming. His strategy, unfortunately, deals with the urgent and ignores that which is more important and that is not what we expect of President Obama.

Confronting the Islamist ideology is a battle for hearts and minds something which the State Department, not Pentagon, is better equipped to undertake. The Department's public diplomacy outreach, which among other things, works to confront ideological support for terrorism is home to the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. Unfortunately, the State Department is always overshadowed by Defense Department when it comes to matters security and it seems America would rather cure the problem through military might than prevent it through the thankless tasks carried out by the State Department.

Not too long ago, in his commencement speech to West Point graduands, President Obama counseled his countrymen telling them that, "U.S. military action cannot be the only or even primary component of our leadership in every instance." "Just because we have the best hammer", he went to say, "does not mean that every problem is a nail."

In his four-part strategy to defeat IS, Obama seems to have either forgotten or pressured to make military action the primary component of his response to the threat posed by IS against his better judgements. Whatever the case may be, he still has the opportunity to reogarnize the priorities of his strategy. If the air strikes are successful in putting a halt to the bloodshed and IS goes into hiding, that could be an opportune moment for reworking the priorities of his strategy. If however, history repeats itself as it is notorious for doing exactly that, IS will retreat to Syria and Syria will become the new Afghanistan.