Author Archives: Karl Reiner

The troubled liberation of Mosul

The forces of the Islamic State overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a stunningly swift victory in June 2014. After a nine month long offensive to retake the city, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, recently declared that Mosul had been liberated. During the struggle to retake the city, it is estimated that thousands of civilians were killed. The exact number may never be known because many of the bodies lie buried in the rubble of wrecked buildings.

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Across the Arizona border

Arizona’s merchandise exports to Mexico totaled $1.87 billion for the first quarter of 2017, a decline from the $2.04 billion reported for first quarter 2016. Among the states, Arizona ranked fifth in first quarter 2017 exports to Mexico, behind Texas ($58.2 billion), California ($6.2 billion), Michigan ($3.2 billion) and Illinois ($2.3 billion). Despite the political ambiguity created by the Trump administration, estimates of Mexico’s 2017 economic growth rate have continued to inch up. Mexico’s economy is projected to grow by 1.9% in 2017. By way of comparison, the economy of the United States is expected to grow 2.2% during the year.

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Iran’s recent election

In a 75% turnout, Iran’s voters went to the polls on May 19 and reelected President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani received 57% of the vote. Ebrahim Raisi, who garnered 38% of the vote, was the hardline candidate favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rouhani won despite the fact that he failed to deliver on the bulk of his promised human rights improvements during his first term. Iran’s voters are said to have sent a message of moderation to the Supreme Leader, they want Rouhani to keep improving the economy and Iran’s relations with the rest of the world. Given the limited ballot choices, it is clear that they voted for the candidate most likely to support economic and social progress.

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Syria’s devastated hospitals

In the ongoing conflict that began in March 2011, Syrian healthcare facilities are significant military targets. There have been 454 air attacks on hospitals, 91 percent of the raids were carried out by aircraft under the control of the Assad government and Russia. The rate of attacks on hospital facilities is said to be increasing. In April 2017, there were 25 attacks on health installations. Between March 2011 and February 2017, over 800 healthcare workers and hundreds patients have been killed as a result of air strikes. Although the UN Security Council has condemned attacks on medical facilities, the repulsive goal of the Assad government (and its supporting Russian air power) is to stop the delivery of medical services to the inhabitants of areas controlled by the opposition.

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President Trump’s border policy creates uncertainty

For the year 2016, Arizona’s exports to Mexico totaled $8.3 billion, down from the $9.1 billion recorded in 2015. Arizona ranked fifth among the states exporting to Mexico in 2016, behind Texas, California, Michigan, and Illinois. The American economy is forecast to grow 2.3% in 2017. Economists have downgraded Mexico’s projected economic growth rate from approximately 2.5% to 1.5% mainly due to the uncertainty generated by the Trump administration’s anticipated policies. Since Mexico’s economic wellness depends in large part on its relations with the U.S., the country’s economic future looks a bit cloudy at this time.

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A few interesting economic and other titbits

The ramifications of the wealth inequality problem so troubling to Western economists and policy makers is also affecting China. A new research paper by five authors, including Piketty and Saez, reveals that in 1978 the highest earning Chinese 10% took home about 25% of national income before taxes. By 2015, the take of the top 10% had risen to two-fifths of total income. The richest 10% now control about 70% of private wealth in China, up from 40% in 1995. The inequality issue was somewhat mitigated by China’s rapid economic growth. Between 1978 and 2015, the income level of the poorer half of the Chinese population quintupled. During the same time period in the United States, the income level of the bottom half of the population declined by 1%.

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