Present trends will continue

The new year will start with two economic crisis events in the United States but otherwise, we can expect 2013 to continue with the trends of the passing year.

IF 2012 is the year that did not bring about the end of the world, then 2013 should be the beginning of a new era, according to the Mayan prophecy.

But it is unlikely the new year will herald a brand new age for the world as a whole.

More probably, it will continue the trends in the old year but in more pronounced and deeply felt ways.

The year 2013 starts with the United States falling off the “fiscal cliff” or else escaping from that at the last moment.

If the fiscal cliff takes effect fully, up to four percentage points of GNP are expected to be sucked out of the US economy due to tax increases and government spending cuts combined, thus resulting in a new recession.

Another problem will soon reach crisis point.

The US government debt will reach its mandated limit around now, and President Barack Obama and Congress will have one to two months to negotiate an increase in that limit before the administration runs out of money to pay for its operations or service its debts.

Thus, we can expect the first two months of 2013 to be preoccupied with the drama of the US politics on debt, taxes and government spending.

It seems that the President-Congress and Democrat-Repub­li­can bitter battles of the last few years will return at the start of Obama’s second term.

If so, the United States’ political paralysis will be reflected in economic policy deadlocks.

The economic crises in the United States, and how they play out, will have a big impact on 2013 worldwide, especially since Europe is already in the midst of a recession.

With the uncertainties in the major developed economies, and the softening of the economies of China, India, Brazil, most developing countries will face economic difficulties this year but the extent of this is to be seen.

On the political front, the ongoing economic turmoil will lead to political changes in many European countries, and the future of the European Union and the Eurozone will themselves come under significant strains.

The next chapter of the Middle East drama is quite unpredictable. Israel, with its right-ward tilt, is expected to become even more aggressive, as its recent plan for more settlements in Jerusalem shows, and this may increase its isolation further.

But whether the Palestinian parties can unite and take advantage of its strong resistance in Gaza, its new UN-adopted status as a state, and the decline in Israel’s international support, is to be seen.

The Iran nuclear issue will continue to occupy news attention, with the Western countries having to decide whether to negotiate with Iran or intensify the sanctions (or both) or prepare for a military attack (thankfully, this does not seem likely).

The Syrian civil war will still dominate the TV channels as it enters another phase and perhaps an end-game, while the continued struggle for Egypt’s future political and social system will also have major effects on the region and the world.

In Asia, the world will watch closely whether the final stage of China’s leadership change-over to the new President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang in March will begin a new era or continue the policies of the past decade.

Malaysia will have its place in the global spotlight with the general election, which will most likely take place in March.

Whatever the results, this closely contested election will be a watershed in the political life of the nation.

by Martin Khor.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/columnists/story.asp?col=globaltrends&file=/2012/12/31/columnists/globaltrends/12516457&sec=Global%20Trends

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