From Fareed: Japan's resilience and Morocco's meaningful reforms
Resident of Kesennuma walks through the rubble after going to see her destroyed home.
March 16th, 2011
12:49 PM ET

From Fareed: Japan's resilience and Morocco's meaningful reforms

Here's what I've been reading this morning:

Japan

What's happened in Japan is a tragedy but it's a very resilient country. In the Financial Times, Martin Wolf reminds us us that Japan is a rich country with lots of assets:

In its thorough way, Goldman Sachs has produced an estimate of the total cost of damage to buildings, production facilities and so forth of some Y16,000bn ($198bn). That would be 1.6 times the destruction from the 1995 Hanshin earthquake, which devastated Kobe. Since this quake was more powerful, that is hardly surprising. If this sum were to be correct, the cost would be 4 per cent of gross domestic product and less than 1 per cent of national wealth. Yet the Japanese stock market has lost $610bn since Friday, 12 per cent of GDP – probably an overreaction.

Some outsiders do wonder whether Japan’s government can afford additional spending. They need not do so: Japan can and unquestionably will pay these relatively modest sums. The Japanese private sector runs a financial surplus large enough to cover the government’s deficit and export substantial capital abroad. Japan as a whole is the world’s largest creditor, with net external assets equal to 60 per cent of GDP. In short, the assets of Japan’s private sector vastly exceed the liabilities of its public sector.

…The idea that the government confronts an imminent fiscal crisis strikes me as quite bizarre.

North Africa

There is a fascinating New York Times piece on why so many African countries still support Moammar Gadhafi.: He's bribed them over the years. This is why oil dictatorships tend to be more resilient. They use mass repression plus mass bribery.

Mali, a desperately poor country near Libya, is a case in point of the allegiance Colonel Qaddafi has bought in many parts of the continent. He has tapped Libya’s vast oil reserves to liberally sprinkle billions of dollars around sub-Saharan Africa, playing all sides and investing in almost anything — governments, rebel groups, luxury hotels, Islamic organizations, rubber factories, rice paddies, diamond mines, supermarkets and the countless OiLibya gas stations.

Pressure is mounting for President Obama to do more in Libya. The clearest analysis of this is from Philip Zelikow in the Financial Times.  He advocates enforcing a no-drive zone:

The task could be defined as more no-drive zone than no-fly zone, using strikes on the coast roads to confine the movement of Col Gaddafi’s mobile columns within designated areas. Most of the relevant road area does not appear to be protected by advanced air defenses. Aircraft and warships of the US and other concerned states can field the needed capabilities.

There is a very important op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about Morocco's reforms:

On March 9, the 47-year-old ruler, Mohammed VI, appeared on national television flanked by his brother and son. He tasked a group of esteemed Moroccans – including a former dissident who has bitterly fought the monarchy – to draft a new constitution that would cede roughly half the king's authority to an elected prime minister.

Now that's reform.

The United States of America

A Wall Street Journal op-ed on high-speed rail finally gets it right. High-speed rail is urgently needed in densely populated areas where the cities have great public transport – in other words, the Northeast Corridor. It makes no sense in Florida.

…there is a way to fund high-speed rail in a place where leaders in both parties support it—the Northeast Corridor from Boston through New York and Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. How? By creating a partnership among the federal government, state governments and the private sector.

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Deborah and David Turpin

    We am deeply concerned for the situation facing those in Japan and agree help should be forth coming. BUT we are
    also concerned with the situtations in Libya. One cannot alter the weather, the sea, or control necular mishaps,
    one can and should stop a murderous dictator that is making hash out of his own people. Forget the country, the
    resources, etc. it is the people that matter. WHERE are we as a nation, WHERE is the U.N. (which is a useless organ-
    zation in our opinion) WHY the delays, what is the motives of those who have the final say on this issue? There is
    something terribly wrong going on. Do not drop these people from the news, Quadafi needs the heat of the eyes of
    the world on his actions. We need to apply all the pressure we can to this area. Where are our leaders?? Let us put
    our efforts to a situation that can and should be changed while there is yet time or shall we just sweep the sands
    over the blood in the desert? Thank you for your time. Deborah & David

    March 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • JLS639

      A small lesson on human nature: foreign intervention in a country tends to create unity... behind the government. Intervention in Libya would likely solidify Quadaffi's hold on power. Obama once said about US involvement in Iran that it would just give the government an excuse to "paper over the differences" with the opposition and accuse any critic of "being a foreign agent."

      Assuming you are American citizens, how would you react to a nation unfriendly with the United States funding, or even arming, a political group within the United States? I suspect most people would assume the worst of that group, regardless of its past. There would be no faster way to kill an opposition group than foreign aid.

      March 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  2. Gordon Smith

    You are absolutely correct. Now Bahrain must be added into the mix. I have been pushing for action through Twitter. Governments must feel pressure from their publics to act.

    March 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  3. Pam Perry

    Immediately after Japan’s March 11 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation set up an emergency coordination center in its global headquarters. Starting March 13, Tzu Chi has launched a series of street fundraising campaigns throughout the United States to benefit victims of this catastrophe.

    The Tzu Chi chapter in Tokyo opened its office as a shelter, providing hot meals and internet access for people to get in touch with relatives. The chapter has provided 500 sets of goods to people unable to return home.

    Tzu Chi volunteers have contacted shelters in Fukushima to assess their needs. Tzu Chi global headquarters has prepared 50,000 kg of instant rice and 17,000 blankets to ship to Japan.

    Donations to Tzu Chi’s rescue efforts are tax deductible in the U.S. Checks, payable to Tzu Chi, can be sent to 2000 Clearview Avenue #100, Atlanta, GA 30340; or to 1100 S. Valley Center Avenue, San Dimas, CA 91773.

    For more information on Tzu Chi or to volunteer, visit http://www.us.tzuchi.org or e-mail info@us.tzuchi.org .

    March 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  4. Moroccan4change

    About Morocco: It would be more accurate to say that the proposed reforms are at a "promise" stage, and not reforms yet. Mubarak and Ben Ali made similar promises. We have yet to see what kinds of limits to his power the king will agree to...IIn the meantime, a sign of good faith from the King, such as freeing all prisoners of opinion, would please everyone. While the international community is busy with Japan, Bahrain and Libya. The crackdown on peaceful protestors is ongoing in Morocco. If you want to understand the issue with this promise of reforms in Morocco, read the article "Promises and Sticks, Change in Morocco." You can find it here: http://moroccansforchange.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/feb20-between-promises-and-sticks-change-in-morocco/

    March 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
    • sorlag

      There was absolutely no crackdown on peaceful protests, in Morocco it is the other way around where protesters are trying to provoke security forces in order to bring attention, we saw that in Rabat a few weeks ago, where a young woman was shouting at and moving aggressively towards security forces who were standing still, and we saw that a few days ago in Casablanca where demonstrators from an extremist Islamist group called "Al Adl wa al Ihsaan" were trying to pull security forces into fights while their women were hiding away from cameras and screaming loudly to make it sound like if the security forces were beating them, and we saw another example in a city called "Karibga" where, mind you, and in an astonishing concept that never happened anywhere in the world, sons of ex employees at OCP, a big Moroccan company of phosphate production, were demonstrating and blatantly asking that the company should hire them as replacement of their deceased parents !? the protesters then started rioting and burned a couple of cars and destroyed public property which prompted the legitimate intervention of the anti riot police.

      Protest in Morocco have been going on peacefully for many years and way before Tunisia's uprising, at Rabat, the capital, unemployed demonstrated in almost a daily basis next to the parliament without being dispersed or hurt by security forces.

      March 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Reply
      • moroccan4change

        In Khouribga, Morocco's OCP charter has an agreement with local people for job quotas. Canada for instance uses potash income to fully fund quality schools and healthcare for Canadians who live in rich potash regions. It's called sharing into the region's wealth. When a region has abudant natural resources, but its people live in poverty, they get angry. This is a well known fact. Take any case in the world, like Nigera's oil for instance, or even Iraq. To say that police did not meet protestors with violence, is false. Some of the protestors may be Islamists, does that justify repression? The sooner Moroccans are allowed to express themselves without fear of repercussion the better it will be for Morocco, its king and its people.

        March 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
      • sorlag

        @moroccan4change
        i did not say that police intervention was justified because they were islamisrts, but because in each of those cases, the protesters started violence and destruction of public property, as i carefully explained.
        The 20th of Feb protests showed clearly that Moroccans can protests peacefully without any fear, but it looks like it is the people who are behind in the curve and can not protest peacefully without resulting to violence and rioting, in every democratic country of the world, police forces would have acted the same.

        March 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Ussef

      So drafting a new constitution with the input of all political parties and NGO, then ratifying it by referendum is not democratic enough for you? give the guy some slack please!
      How about everyone take a fortnight to think things thoroughly then comeback with serious propositions and debate?!

      March 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Reply
    • Mouchai

      I see you have been going all around the web spreading this kind of information. I have been following the news on the internet as well, and whenever I fall on a positive piece about the situation in Morocco, there you are, in the comments, trying to prove a non existent point.
      Let me tell you sir, that neither you nor your group of "youth activists" represent Morocco and Moroccans.
      What you are trying to do here is a very grave mistake and I hope that you WILL be punished for it.
      What Moroccans want is peace, not a meaningless, aimless revolution.
      To be quite frank, I could care less about politics and the constitution, just like most Moroccans.
      All we want is political and social stability, which we already do have effectively.
      We trust the King and his government, and we're certain that they are bringing us reforms and prosperity.
      You and your people should not keep talking as if you represent millions of Moroccans, when you don't even represent 1% of the public opinion.
      I hope the police keeps cracking down on those riots, as they are unauthorized and illegal.
      Tunisia and Egypt will only suffer the consequences of those uprisings from now on- : They will never know stability much like Lebanon.
      Consider this : you are going absolutely nowhere with those ideologies of yours, and those protests and uprisings you're asking for will never happen in Morocco, not because the people are stupid and uneducated, but because they know what is best for their country and their children.

      March 17, 2011 at 9:03 am | Reply
      • moroccanforchange

        @mouchai: is your comment addressed to M4C? I believe you are confused. We do not represent the youth movement, we are Moroccans ( like you) who love our country and support positive change. We do not support a revolution and never encouraged chaos. We report violations of human rights, corruption and look at the situation from an objective, and factual basis. We will continue to do all that we can to help our country move forward peacefully and sustainably. Being critical doesn't mean encouraging chaos, it means wanting better for our country. If you think that you have political or social stability, then I am not sure on which land you live.

        March 18, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  5. sorlag

    Americans should be more aware of what is going on inside the few US ally countries in that critical region of the world.
    Morocco would probably not need dollar help but needs a lot of support in urban planning and other related areas.
    and also we should not forget that Morocco has a serious territorial dispute over its southern territory with "Polisario" which is a young 30 years old separatist group backed up militarily and fully supported by neighboring Algeria and Spain, all evidence lead to the fact that Algeria which always was supporting USSR during the cold war sees Morocco which was always aligned with the US as its arch enemy in the region especially when Morocco was in military conflict with the Polisario front which was founded by communist leaders and helped by Gaddafy of Lybia, as for Spain (which was occupying the southern part of Morocco before 1975), it looks like they never liked dealing with Morocco when it comes to the fishing agreements over the Moroccan and Saharan coasts, a separated newly created country called Western Sahara will be the perfect case for it to go back to its ex-colony, Spain media is leading a fierce battle against the Moroccan case, El-Pais, a Spanish famous daily news paper went even as far as publishing hurt children pictures from the Gaza strip and showing them as results of "Moroccan security forces brutality against Saharan people", El-pais apologized later and said it was a mistake...

    Morocco's pockets are drained because of this conflict, and it is one of the leading reasons of the instability in that country.
    If that issue was fixed, Morocco could focus more on development projects.

    Moreover and more importantly, if there is one issue that the Moroccan public opinion, the King and the government with all its parties agree on perfectly and unanimously, it is the Western Sahara issue, so if the US provides its help, it will get unanimous and ultimate favorable opinion from Morocco.
    and i think it is an easy thing to achieve since Morocco has a strong case in the issue, and there was never a country in that region of the world or any self governing entity called Western Sahara, and all the Arab and Muslim historians, countries and people are for Morocco's case except Gaddafi as a regime and Algeria.

    March 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • Mouchai

      I completely agree with what you said.
      More people should start thinking the way you do-

      March 17, 2011 at 9:08 am | Reply
  6. Bayano

    @Deborah & David
    you said all the words, the media is now focussing all it's powers on japan. The west always push for democracy but when it comes to defending it we always shy away. Obama now is hoping the UN vote NO on the "no fly zone" if not there is no reason to beleive Obama thinks China or Rusia will vote yes on the "No Fly Zone" so Obama is just playing games cause he dosen't want To take any hard decision. By the Way i think its time to trash the UN. We base all our hopes on countries like China and russia countries with Heavy human right problems and at the same time we are asking them to support human right in another country. The UN votes always geos like this China and russia voted NO today on the resolution xxx. You can always predict their vote from a Billion light Years away.

    March 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  7. van kaas

    In Morocco the King likes to cede roughly half the king's authority to an elected prime minister? C'mon. That is not very accurate reporting. The guy occupies 4/5 of the former Spanish Sahara which is an illegal occupation by all standards and he does not want to give up "one grain of sand".

    March 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Reply
    • bennani-smires faysal

      thats our land brother,it was always,it is now,and it will be forever!!!educate yourself on the matter and seek the truth!!!

      April 5, 2011 at 2:06 am | Reply
  8. saving lives

    If your in tokyo and read this get out now!! Don't waste time it could save your life. Drive as far away as possible or head to the airport and go somewhere anywhere. Take a couple weeks off and see if the smoke clears.

    March 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Reply
    • dlrm

      i can't . caz i'm japanese. i have responsibility to help each other.

      March 17, 2011 at 6:35 am | Reply
  9. masarra mukarkar

    Lester Holt was tested for radiation and unacceptable levels of radioactive material were found to be embedded in his footwear even after washing

    March 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  10. kalmeida317

    The Morocco article is funny, maybe if Gadaffi spent less on bribes and more on his own people all this would not be happening.

    htt://globalchatte.wordpress.com

    March 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  11. Manuel Lochard

    HI
    Would someone tell the people flying the helos with the water buckets to add more cable on helos so they can stay higher up and get there water buckets closer to the fires were it is needed. I hope this will be passed on please.
    Thank you

    March 17, 2011 at 1:32 am | Reply
  12. Jacob Keum

    I was watching Mr Zakaria's recent show in which he was misusing some words regarding the current crisis facing Japan.
    He used the word "spectacular" referring to a more catastrophic events due to Tsunami in north of Japan. Either we are talking about Katrina or Earthquake in Haiti or event the recent events in Sendai, we should use our words carefully because in a globally connected world of Today even a single loss of life is a tragedy... Also a journalist supposed to be objective at all time to convey with the utmost objectivity the current news, but mister Zakarias expressed in a more critical tone of japanese society. He was referring to the lack of change in the immigration in Japan and also he seemed not to fully understand that no politician in japan with current political post is allowed from accepting political donations regardless of donor's nationality. It would be unfair to compare Japan with other westernized nations. Social change must come from within to be ever lasting and it takes time for a society and a nation to change. Remember we can't refer to the same dynamic history of the United States to other nations.
    Please accept my apologies if my usage of english language is not perfect since english has been my fourth language.

    March 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  13. LUGARESFAVORITOS

    IMAGES OF JAPAN ESTO ES JAPON IMAGENES
    http://lugaresfavoritos.blogspot.com/2011/03/esto-es-japon-imagenes.html

    http://WWW.LUGARESFAVORITOS.BLOGSPOT.COM

    IMAGES OF JAPAN ESTO ES JAPON IMAGENES
    http://lugaresfavoritos.blogspot.com/2011/03/esto-es-japon-imagenes.html

    http://WWW.LUGARESFAVORITOS.BLOGSPOT.COM

    March 18, 2011 at 12:51 am | Reply
  14. Foroozan Manoochehri

    For more than 6 decades Japanese philosophy, Technology and manufactured Products have brightened global human societies in many arenas. This highly humble and creative nation has severely hurt by the multiple disasters since last Friday, so it is the time for the rest of the world to stand up and show its appreciation by assisting Japan to recover herself.

    March 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  15. matthew

    why not allow a japanese person on to talk about japan, rather than a ceo of a multinational corporation? or, like last week, making the only japanese person on the show sit in the back seat while some rabid right wing aei goes on and on about the greatness of western society, etc.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:35 am | Reply
  16. bennani-smires faysal

    since taking charge of the country after the death of his father king hassan 2 may god bless his soul july 23 1999,king mohamed 6 immediately moved on with vigourous reforms way before the so called started with firing the head of security back then mr.driss basri,creating a reconciliation program for all figures of opposition persucuted by the old regime and give equal rights to woman a first in the muslim and arab world,freedom of the press and the right to self expression are almost similar to our western counterparts u go to the newsstands and you will see at least 30 to 40 daily publications in various languages touching and writing about any subjects including the royal family,recognizing the amazigh culture as a national heritage and many others courageous and ambitious reforms ...economically we all have seeing the huge infrastrucutrial projects that the king took upon by connecting the whole country with high quality highways,fixing all the cities,high speed trains ,building new ports and fixing old ones and my hometown casablanca a world class city,an economy growing at a 5% rate in the mid of a world recession all this of course with morocco not being blessed with natural ressources like other countries in the region and many many more great things that we all witnessed and still happening!!!the guy has been working hard for his country contrarery to his father that was more of foreign policy master !!!!of course there is still a lot of work to be done,we have great challenges still facing us but we are in the right direction with his vision and the greatness and hard work of the moroccan people!!!!morocco is an exception whether people like it or not,its define by its monarchynot like other kingdoms in the region created by colonial powers in the early 20th century ...and the point im trying to get to wheter you live in the u.s or the u.k or france or whatever and if you are moroccan you always be define by morocco as your country of origin so to all my fellows moroccans stop dividing and polorizingand let's unite our forces and powers to build a new and better morocco hand in hand with our young king mohamed 6 because i know that he needs us in this pivotal time in morocco's history...long live god the homeland and the king...peace!!!

    April 5, 2011 at 2:02 am | Reply
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    September 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply

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