Monthly Archives: January 2018

What destroyed Venezuela’s economy could destroy ours too

By Matt O’Brien

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Caracas, Venezuela. (Miguel Gutierrez/EPA)

Venezuela’s government has managed to turn the country with the world’s largest oil reserves into a pauper state where food is scarce, violence is abundant and money is worthless.

Despite that, however, its grip on power still seems strong. It has packed the courts, bullied the press and replaced the opposition-led legislature with a much more pliant one filled solely with regime apparatchiks. Not even mass protests have been able to stop this slide into authoritarianism. Why not? Because Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela has learned what Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe did a decade ago: that you can get people to stick with you no matter what if they think your opponents are their enemies.

It turns out, then, that revolutions do not live by bread alone. They need polarization, too.

That’s the only way to explain the otherwise inexplicable fact that the two of the most economically destructive governments in recent memory have also been two of the longest-lasting. Indeed, Venezuela has the world’s worst inflation rate, second-worst unemployment rate, third-worst murder rate and 10th-worst corruption score. To give you an idea of how dire things are, the International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation is more than 1,100 percent right now and will get up to more than 2,000 percent by year’s end. (The government, of course, doesn’t bother publishing its own figures anymore). This has meant death for the nation’s currency. It lost 99.7 percent of its value, going by black market prices, from the start of 2012 to the end of 2016, and then another 98.3 percent since. Altogether that’s a 99.99 percent drop over the past six years. Which, as my colleague Anthony Faiola reports, is how something as simple as a Transformers toy could end up being worth 10 months of …read more

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In a first, only women will lead Davos — an elite meeting of mostly men

By Danielle Paquette

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland — Beneath a crystal chandelier, Lynne Doughtie, U.S. chairman and chief executive of the global consulting firm KPMG, addressed some of the world’s most powerful people and lamented a glaring absence.

“We’re all disappointed by the statistics of how many women are here,” she said Monday at the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Nearly every year for the last three decades, heads of state, chief executives, top economists and other celebrities have convened in Davos to debate the Earth’s loftiest problems, including war and environmental decline.

The themes have changed over time, but one trait has persisted: Davos is dominated by men. So much so that the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington’s nickname for the global elite, coined in 2004 and still widely used, is the Davos Man.

Which is why the 2018 cast of seven co-chairs comes as a twist. For the first time in the Forum’s history, all the top Davos Men are women. There’s a union boss, a nuclear physicist, two company heads, a financial organization leader, an economist and the prime minister of Norway.

This team presides over the Alpine gathering after a weekend of women’s rallies in the U.S. and around the world against the gender pay gap and other issues — and a year of fierce public debate about sexual harassment.

But as Doughtie noted the gender transformation at the top of this conference does little to improve the official ratio. Just 21 percent of the roughly 3,000 participants this year are women, the Forum said. That’s up from 20 percent in 2017, 18 percent in 2016 and 17 percent in 2015.

“Things are changing, but they’re not changing fast enough,” said Doughtie, speaking at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, where KPMG had set up a lounge to discuss gender disparities over …read more

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