global agenda 88.
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The unexpected release of the captured British servicepersons, by that nice Mr. Ahmadinejad, proves how wrong it was to assign any importance, let alone potential damage, to that unfortunate misunderstanding in the Persian Gulf.
As our brave boys (and bescarfed gal) were at pains to note, repeatedly ad nauseam, Iranian hospitality was outstanding and the entire experience very pleasant. Indeed, not one of them was whipped, tortured or otherwise incommoded during their visit to Teheran, so clearly all those nasty things the nutty neocons and Bushites, and their poodle Tony Blair, were saying about the Iranian government were totally wrong, untrue, misleading, incendiary, divisive and generally Islamophobic.
Now that we have straightened out the record on that issue, it's much easier to see why the global financial sector is behaving so well this week.
Apart from the obvious holiday cheer, during Passover, prior to Easter and the prophet's birthday and in line with the frisky Spring atmosphere, there is just so much positive that is happening. To start with, oil prices have come down all the way from $66 a barrel to $64 or even less. Gold prices have risen, along with copper and all the other metals, whether precious, industrial or whatever. This shows that global demand is strong, mainly because the Chinese are still building as much of everything as you can imagine, and then some. It also shows - as does every piece of economic data, if only you look at it the right way - that the problems in the US housing sector are not as serious as some are claiming; alternatively, even if they are, they are not spilling over into the general economy - or, even if they are, they are being offset by growth in the global economy, so who cares about the damn Yankees anyway?
Further proof of the well-being of the world is provided by its stock markets. Those wobbles in February and early March may have caused concern to some weak-kneed speculators, but we can now see they were not worth getting worked up about. The Frankfurt market is back above 7,000 and the Hong Kong index has regained 20,000. Tokyo is fine and, of course, Tel Aviv is at new highs yet again. It all goes to show how you have to keep your cool when all around are losing theirs. So Wall Street dropped 400 points in one day? In the big picture, it was just a blip, now long forgotten.
Above all, economic growth is its usual healthy resilient self. The Americans revised upwards their GDP figures for the last quarter of 2006, thanks to higher inventories and more sales from Boeing. True, capital expenditure is very weak, meaning that firms are not investing much of their enormous profits in new plant and equipment; residential construction, of course, is also weak - as the boss of one of the biggest builders in the country recently noted, "business sucks." Consumers are also turning cautious. Oh yeah, inflation is not falling, oil prices are rising again and there's an impending shortage of gasoline, because refineries are still not operating at high enough capacity.
But never mind the damn Yankees. As the IMF notes in a new analysis called "Decoupling the Train?" and set to be included in its upcoming World Economic Outlook, the global economy is much less dependent than it used to be on the American economy, so weakness in the USA doesn't necessarily mean bad news for everyone else. Indeed, Europe is performing well, with Germany improving and Britain still strong, while Asia is, as ever, booming. China, Japan, Russia and some others have vast excess currency reserves, which they are effectively using to keep the US running and its consumers with funds to borrow and then spend on foreign raw materials, goods and even services.
All in all, any intelligent, unbiased and open-minded observer reviewing the hard data and the surveys of how people feel in April 2007, can only conclude that the world is doing fine. Moderate, wise, far-sighted leadership focused on promoting the common good is now the norm among large corporations, no less than among nations in our globalized world. Ordinary people, happy to make their revered leaders into role-models, conduct their own affairs with the same thoughtfulness, magnanimity and consideration for others so evident on the international scene.
Small wonder, then, that so many of the world's citizens look to the future with quiet confidence, assured that their happy lot will improve still further in an environment of tranquillity, shared blessings and peace.
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