The Year Of Living Dangerously

2011 was one of portentous changes, a gathering of clouds, possibly,  for the new year. Below were its milestones listed not necessarily by importance:

1. Financial Crisis- Money matters dominated most of the year. In the summer the U.S. lost its coveted AAA credit rating and, in a game of Republican political brinkmanship, came dangerously close to defaulting on its debt when Congress delayed an increase in the country’s debt ceiling.
Europe was not far behind. Its leaders spent the year staving off creeping defaults in Greece, then in Italy and Spain, with Portugal and Ireland on the periphery. The euro narrative has still to fully unfold. Stay tuned.

2.  The Arab Spring- This was the good story of 2011. After years of Western supported repressive regimes, the citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria decided they had had enough. Armed with little more than social media and mobile technology, the young and the middle class took to the streets to overthrow their leaders. The West hopes the Governments that emerge will follow the Turkish secular model but a slide to greater Islamism is very real with consequences on the regional dynamics.
In the first instance of Second World countries exporting their social models, the Arab Spring morphed into the Occupy Movement in the West. Clearly, anger is not the monopoly of any one people.

3.The fall of Bin laden, the U.S. exit from Iraq- These two events marked the end of Part I of the War on Terror. Part II could well see the loss of many of the gains as well as its transformation from a fight against terrorist cells to geopolitical disturbance among nations in the Muslim sphere. With its growing nuclear capability (experts are giving it nine months), strategic location on the Strait of Hormuz, and the vacuum created by the American withdrawal in Iraq, however partial, Iran will take center stage. An already nuclear Pakistan is another hot spot. At stake is the stability of a region on which the world depends for oil. A spike in oil prices will tip already fragile economies into recession.

4. The Fukushima tsunami- Climate change reared its ugly head in this community reminding us what happens when Nature meets Man’s inventions (the nuclear reactor): Nature always wins. In the Philippines, Sendong told a similar story, that you can rape the land because it is helpless but it ultimately  exacts its revenge. The environment will, I suspect, be the big story in 2012.
Fukushima had its silver lining: It unleashed a kindness among its population and an outpouring from outside, demonstrating the power of the human spirit.

5. China is the man- Despite growing inflation and a slowing economy, China is coming onto its own especially given the problems of the U.S. and Europe. Will the country tread softly in its new role of world financier and co-leader or will it play the heavy?

6. The death of Kim Jong Il- The passing away of the North Korean leader removes a potentially nuclear thorn from the belly of the region. The question is whether the country will retreat further into itself or open up to the world. All will depend on China.

In the Philippines:

1. The confinement of GMA- A year ago nobody would have bet on GMA being where she is today, least of all herself. That she and her family did not exit when the coast was clear remains the $64 million question. This sometimes happens when one forgets the world has changed.

2. The impeachment of the SC Chief Justice- The same may be said of Justice Corona, the being where he is. Whatever its merits or demerits, the impeachment is a useful exercise in public accountability. For the longest time we asked ourselves: Who judges the judges? Now, at least, we know.

3. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee- The Senate investigation is significant because of the magnitude of the personalities and the transactions. It is the first serious attempt to bring clarity to alleged big time corporate wrongdoing. Its success will bolster the business climate and prove the Administration’s house cleaning is not all politically motivated and includes white collar crime which has largely been spared.

In 2011 the world was reminded of the precariousness of its financials, its environment and its security. Followers of Nostradamus, the Mayans and the universe believe last year was a harbinger, that 2012 will see a painful purge followed by a new dawn. Maybe we are indeed due for a catharsis even though the outcome especially for those currently at risk; will not be pretty.


About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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