Monday, December 12, 2016

Lower growth forecast for developing Asia; Venezuelans prepare for currency yanking; Power has leaked from cities to countrysides

1 Lower growth forecast for developing Asia (Straits Times) The Asian Development Bank slightly lowered its 2016 growth forecast for developing Asia, reflecting slower-than-expected expansion in India.

Developing Asia, which groups 45 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, is now expected to expand 5.6 per cent this year, slightly weaker than a previous forecast of 5.7 per cent, the ADB said.

The ADB trimmed its growth estimate for India this year to 7.0 per cent from 7.4 per cent due to weak investment, agricultural slowdown and the government's demonetisation, but India is expected to end 2017 at faster growth rate of 7.8 per cent. The ADB said China is seen expanding 6.6 per cent this year and 6.4 per cent next year.

2 Venezuelans prepare for currency yanking (San Francisco Chronicle) Venezuelans are rushing to spend their 100-bolivar notes after President Nicolas Maduro's announcement they will be taken out of circulation to stop the contraband smuggling "mafias" along the Colombian border that he says hoard cash outside the country.

The government has promised to issue new, higher-denomination bills this week amid the world's highest inflation.

Maduro warned that people will not be allowed to bring back 100-bolivar bills from outside the country to trade them in for new currency. People loyal to Maduro's socialist party circulated drawings on social media of hapless criminals trying to smuggle 100-bolivar bills into Venezuela like drugs. An estimated third of Venezuelans have no bank account and keep their savings in the soon-to-be-worthless bills.

3 Power has leaked from cities to countryside (Andy Beckett in The Guardian) As the most successful British and American cities have gentrified and repopulated in recent decades, reversing the inner-city decline of the 60s and 70s, it’s become a cliche to say how powerful they are: economically, culturally, politically.

Many people think they’re too powerful. A revolt against urban liberalism and multiculturalism, and their supposed imposition on the rest of the population, was a big element of the Brexit and Donald Trump campaigns.

Almost two-thirds of US rural and small-town voters chose Trump, while a similar proportion in the cities chose Hillary Clinton. In the English countryside, 55% voted for Brexit, while cities as varied as Bristol, Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool and London voted even more decisively for remain.

The stark and growing political division of the US and the UK by population density has been one of the most striking, if under-reported, revelations of the great 2016 electoral reckoning. Yet the US election and the EU referendum have also shown that even the most confident, expansive cities are politically quite weak. Not simply because their preferred causes lost narrowly in both cases; but because patterns of urban life and both countries’ electoral systems are increasingly out of sync.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently more than a million non-British EU citizens living in London – almost an eighth of the city’s population. Yet none of these can vote in British national elections or referendums, only in local ones. Their presence may have a huge economic and social impact, but it has little political weight.

The very thing that makes modern cities vibrant and culturally dominant – increasing population density, and the atmosphere and networks that result from it – has left them politically under-represented. Meanwhile, the scattered and thinned-out populations of many struggling rural and small town areas distribute their voters through the British and American electoral systems much more efficiently.

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