Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In its biannual report, the World Bank cut its global growth forecast for 2012 to 2.5 percent from 3.6 percent, while warning that a likely recession in the eurozone (Bloomberg) could accelerate a slowdown in developing countries. The report, which comes days after rating agency Standard and Poor's downgraded nine eurozone countries, cites market fears over European sovereign debt contagion (WSJ) as undermining global economic growth.
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"Italy, Spain, and France all have deficits that exceed 3 [percent] of GDP. But these are not structural deficits, and financial markets would be better informed and reassured if the ECB indicated the size of the real structural deficits and showed that they are now declining," writes Martin Feldstein on Project Syndicate.
"Bond-market indigestion; a rating downgrade; the worsening mess in Greece; or the wrangle over private-sector losses: any of these could rattle confidence and trigger a much deeper recession. Even in the absence of an accident, conditions are hostile to growth," says the Economist.
"Currencies will rise and fall; interest rates will fluctuate; some companies will succeed while others go bust. A good financial system will absorb these risks without taxpayers picking up the pieces. But the risks will still be there; financial firms will still blow up," writes CFR's Sebastian Mallaby in the Financial Times.
Russia Opposes New Iran Sanctions
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov reiterated Russian opposition to new economic sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear program, just days ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting that will focus on a possible embargo of Iran's oil (NYT).
The latest revelations over Iran's uranium enrichment activities have triggered debate over a slew of policy options from more sanctions to preventive strikes, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.
SYRIA: The army reportedly agreed to a ceasefire with Free Syrian Army (al-Jazeera) opposition fighters in the town of Zabadani near Damascus.
If the world wants to see the end of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it will likely require international intervention, writes CFR's Steven A. Cook in this Atlantic op-ed.
Suu Kyi Registers for Myanmar Election
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, officially registered to run for a parliamentary seat in a by-election this April (BBC). The move comes on the heels of a series of reforms by Myanmar's military-backed civilian government, and a decision by the United States to restore diplomatic relations.
In his blog, Asia Unbound, CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick outlines a number of steps the United States should take before removing sanctions on Myanmar's government.
CHINA: U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke publicly criticized China for its human rights record (WSJ), saying it was "getting worse." The statement prompted a swift rebuttal from the Chinese foreign ministry, which insisted that Locke's views did not represent mainstream public opinion in the country.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan Refuses Visit by U.S. Envoy
Pakistan rejected a request by U.S. special envoy Marc Grossman to visit the country, amid ongoing U.S.-Pakistani tensions (Telegraph) caused by a NATO raid late last year that killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers along the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country, with this CFR Crisis Guide.
AFGHANISTAN: After years of decline, the number of cases of Polio tripled (NYT) in 2011. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where the disease is still endemic.
Foreign Tourists Killed in Ethiopia Attack
Gunmen attacked a group of European tourists in Ethiopia's northern Afar region, killing five people, injuring two (Guardian), and kidnapping four, including two foreigners and two Ethiopians. The Ethiopian government blamed rebels trained and armed by neighboring Eritrea, which the country has denied.
ANGOLA: The government denied a Human Rights Watch report that alleges $32 billion linked to the state oil company (Reuters) Sonangol went missing.
Smoke Bomb Thrown at WH during Occupy Protests
A smoke bomb was allegedly thrown over the White House fence during a demonstration by over a thousand Occupy DC protesters (Politico) on Tuesday night. No arrests were made.
UNITED STATES: Wikipedia and other websites have shut down services today in protest of two anti-piracy laws (WSJ) being considered by the U.S. Congress.
EU Takes Legal Action against Hungary
The European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Hungary over three recently-passed constitutional reforms (DeutscheWelle) that allegedly violate EU law by putting in jeopardy the independence of the Hungary's central bank, judiciary, and data protection authority.
Budget Cuts at Research Universities
A report by the National Science Foundation indicates that states have slashed funding for public research universities (Chronicle) by 20 percent between 2002-2010 and finds that Asian countries, particularly China, are outpacing the United States in awarding science and engineering degrees.
CORPORATE TAXATION: The White House's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness called for a major corporate tax overhaul, increased domestic drilling, and a new set of regulatory reforms for the coming year (Reuters). Critics claim these proposals will do little to spur job growth.
The Middle East is a tinderbox. Israel wants to get Iran off the uraninum enrichment program. Iran fears a strike from Israel, despite its sabre-rattling.The U.S. and the E.U. want to impose an international embargo on Iranian oil. Its cleric regime in Tehran knows sanctions bite. This a no-win game! Both camps will try to back off its threats and come to the negotiating table.
The reactionary Victor Orban defeated communism in 1989. In Hungary his Fidesz-party is on the same course as France's Front National. As it has a two-thirds majority in parliament, Orban is becoming increasingly authritarian, embracing nationalist and populist values. His government moves to take over the national bank, violate human rights and destroy the democratic checks and balances. Orban will have to give in if he wants the financial aid from the E.U.
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