Wednesday Night #1509

Written by  //  February 2, 2011  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

Pensions and retirement
Pension administrators take great pride in their ability to assure that the pension funds they administer will be adequate for employees when they ultimately require. Furthermore,  when there is a  choice in type of plan available, they have been known to go beyond their mandate to educate employees in selecting one most suitable for their particular circumstance.
There are several possible explanations for the apparent indifference of youth to saving and planning for retirement, including their perceived invulnerability and the mobility in today’s workforce, leading the majority to be more career than future oriented.
A factor, usually not taken into account in retirement planning is that the same inflation that plays an important part in the growth of the individual’s pension fund continues after retirement, at times, bursting the bubble of an anticipated carefree retirement.

Egypt
Probably thanks to Wikileaks, and among news media, ABC’s  Chrstiane Amanpour, we are aware of some of the reality of the implication of events in Egypt.  Some Wednesday Nighters express dismay at the reporting of media anchors who fly into Egypt by private jet and report from splendid isolation (just think of the insurance if they were exposed to any real danger)  without any knowledge or comprehension of the culture and without apparent care or realization that what happens there will be decided in the Muslim and Middle East uninfluenced by the U.S. or the West.  This is not a new, spontaneous uprising but, in reality, is said to have started as an unrecognized movement three years ago on Facebook.  There is, thus, no reason to believe that this is not a genuine popular revolt; the danger lies in the identity of the leader or group that ultimately co-opt adopts it.  Christian Copts are said to have already fled en masse, perhaps signalling a fear of a takeover of the New Egypt following the uprising, by militant Islamists.

The New School of Athens
The New School of Athens is a “think and do tank” whose ultimate aim is the establishment of global governance, encouraging adaptation of aspects of the European Union model rather than those of the now-outmoded multilateral organizations, typified by the Bretton Woods system, as opposed to the frequent acrimony of the (probably inappropriately named) United Nations.  A conference is planned in Montreal on the Canadian model, the second of a series of regional conferences, followed by a consolidation/synthesizing conference.  Considering the history of the League of Nations and the United Nations, the probability of success may appear remote, but the benefits of success to mankind certainly make the effort worthwhile.  Wednesday Nighters unanimously cheer the initiative.

Nigeria – a Wednesday Nighter reports on his recent visit
Nigeria’s current plan to upgrade its electrical grid through the installation of a series of natural gas turbines.  Laudable as this plan may appear,  the necessary investment is highly risky, the quality of the input gas, not good and although World Bank will provide the funds for their purchase, it does not do so for maintenance and the necessary maintenance skills in Nigeria range from minute to non-existence.
Even for a visitor who has traveled in other regions of the developing world, the contrast is stark in Nigeria between the luxurious trappings of an oil-rich government and the abject poverty of so much of the population that enjoys none of the benefits that should flow from the exploitation of the oil. [Update: 10 February — The Economist points to this ‘African’ problem in The impressive growth figures of resource-rich African countries are not all good news ]

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The Prologue

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly “see its shadow” and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. So what about if it is snowing?

Will Mr Mubarak see his shadow? Will he scuttle back into his bunker for six more weeks, or will he amble (groundhog-like) away from the presidency and let spring begin?

[We hope you like the segue of which we are quite proud!]

We, like many of you, have been glued to the news and analysis of the evolving Egyptian story, whether in print, or on radio, television or Internet and have heard so many conflicting opinions that we are no further ahead. Is the opposition fuelled by the disastrous performance of the economy – the graft and corruption – an overwhelming desire for democratic reform – regime fatigue – all or none of the above? Will/should the military step in?  Is ElBaradei (of whom Robert Fisk seems to approve) the right voice to carry the message through a transition government? Who is the opposition?  Tuesday evening’s superb Charlie Rose Update on Egypt with Tarek Masoud of Harvard Kennedy School, Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, Emad Shahin of Notre Dame, Anthony Shadid & Neil MacFarquhar of ‘The New York Times was a treat, but even those experts are divided over the answers – and perhaps even the questions. We should add that we were far less impressed with the later segment featuring Stephen P. Cohen of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development & Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute, and formerly of the CIA who is/was apparently a good buddy (and former client) of the unsavoury Omar Suleiman

However, as Stratfor’s George Friedman points out “There is, of course, the usual discussion of what U.S. President Barack Obama’s view is, or what the Europeans think, or what the Iranians are up to. All of them undoubtedly have thoughts and even plans. In my view, trying to shape the political dynamics of a country like Egypt from Iran or the United States is futile, and believing that what is happening in Egypt is the result of their conspiracies is nonsense. A lot of people care what is happening there, and a lot of people are saying all sorts of things and even spending money on spies and Twitter. Egypt’s regime can be influenced in this way, but a revolution really doesn’t depend on what the European Union or Tehran says.” On the other hand, what happens in Egypt is bound to have huge repercussions in Washington and the capitals of Europe, whose foreign policy has been woefully laggard, not to mention Israel and other Arab nations e.g. Jordan. Certainly the pronouncements from the U.S. in the past week have been less than impressive – or consistent.

We invite you to check out our attempt to keep up on the deluge of news and to suggest whatever we may be missing and we look forward to Germain Bourgeois‘ comments from his perspective as an emerging markets expert.

In other news:

Last week we promised that Steven Lightfoot would recount his Nigerian adventures. As he was felled by a combination of jet lag and lurking malaise, he postponed his appearance and will be with this Wednesday.

Switzerland has blocked Baby Doc’s funds while France has seized the private jet belonging to the former Tunisian president.

At home, Parliament is in session again and Mr. Flaherty has announced that he will table his budget sometime in March ‘when the House is sitting’ (good idea).
One news article worth reading and discussing is John Ibbitson’s: Tide of change about to roll through provinces. Reminding us that “It now appears that there will be as many as seven – count ‘em, seven – provincial elections this year, promising generational change among the premiers on a scale never seen before”, he points out that it “could in turn lead to major changes in how governments deliver health care and fund other social services.”
Are you following the reaction to the CRTC decision on Internet billing? We note with pride that CBC reports that “Liberal technology critic Marc Garneau said Monday that his party considered the decision to be anti-competitive because it penalizes small internet service providers.” In fairness, hnology/tech-news/harper-steps-into-web-dispute/article1890567/”>Mr Harper has asked for a review of the decision. [Update:The Harper government will overturn the CRTC’s decision that effectively ends “unlimited use” Internet plans if the regulator doesn’t rescind the decision itself. Industry Minister Tony Clement made the surprise announcement late Wednesday night via his closely followed Twitter account.]
Canada-U.S. border security is in question (AGAIN) with Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins leading the pack. We hope Mr. Harper’s quick visit to Washington this week will help tone down that rhetoric; it will be interesting to see what line on Egypt he will come home with – and that’s where we started.

A couple of notes for your calendar:
The website of The New School of Athens (NSoA) – still a work in progress – is up and running. Please bookmark it and take a look. Comments would be most welcome.

– Sue McDougall Chartrand and Marie Cormier advise that on February 23 From the Street to SUCCESS  is holding a fundraiser at the Atwater Club. This is a great initiative and we urge anyone who can to support it.

– Infinitheatre’s Joe Louis: An American Romance opened to rave reviews – five shows already sold out.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1509"

  1. A Wednesday Night Regular February 2, 2011 at 9:55 am · Reply

    The GAO Border issue is interesting because once again Canada is obliged to pay lip service to a goofy US strategy of trying to control a map rather than what moves across it. Nevertheless, as the GAO report reiterates from time to time: “One reason why partner contributions are not identified and assessed is because Border Patrol guidance does not require partner resources to be incorporated into Border Patrol security assessments, or in documents that inform the resource planning process.” Translation: the security assessments don’t consider either state or Canadian efforts in reaching their conclusions. To avoid thus automatically growing DHS even more (already out of control generating 000s of unread reports every month) the report is calling for better accounting methods.

    As to the Lieberman comment, as we know, the team that actually hit the twin towers and Pentagon etc. were legally admitted to the US and the other border incidents came through regular check points and were detected. If Canada in fact does have Islamic terrorist groups, I would not be surprised to learn they were supported by CSIS just as the domestic hate groups used to be–as everyone from the Russian Tsars onward knows, the best way to locate and control terrorists is to put them on the payroll so they tell you what they plan to do next. The problem is the kids who follow AQ on the net and then try to come up with something on their own–statistically we should be more worried about some of them coming north than vice versa because of the greater numbers and free availability of lethal stuff in the US than here.

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