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New pope's global spiritual empire

With Pope Benedict announcing his retirement, all eyes turn towards his successor. The position of pope carries with it enormous power, for he is in effect an autocrat ruling over a global spiritual empire that is as heavily bureaucratised as any temporal empire ever was. Some articles talk of

IMF reform: Russia must step up

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. On 30 January the IMF announced that it had failed to meet the self-imposed deadline of agreeing on a new quota formula by January 2013. This was the second failure to meet a deadline. The IMF also failed to meet a 2012

Finance sector ills dormant, not cured

In America, the momentum for reform resulting from the 2008 financial crisis has dissipated, with Wall Street's continuing resistance weakening the initial political vigour. Some progress has been made. In due course, banks will have to hold more capital and meet liquidity requirements. US

Reader riposte: Malcolm Fraser on China

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser writes: Since the Lowy Institute is apparently giving considerable publicity to Captain Fanell's remarks about China, I thought you might be interested in these two articles of Nicholas Kristof's in the New York Times. They give a different,

Wagah: The border ceremony

Alicia Mollaun, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School at ANU, is based in Islamabad. Her previous post in this series described a visit to Lahore. About a 45-minute drive from Lahore the traffic starts to build. People are streaming in from everywhere, parking cars haphazardly and then

Tone-deaf dictatorships

RCW helpfully compiles the three ways Iran has embarrassed itself recently, most notably by revealing a laughable fiberglass model of a supposed stealth fighter. North Korea's propaganda doesn't pass the laugh test either. The regime recently uploaded the above video to its official website

No shortage of work for G20

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. In two insightful posts on the G20 and global economic leadership, the Lowy Institute's Mike Callaghan wonders whether the G20 has run out of puff, and asks for a 'circuit

Debt vs deficit: A quick primer

Stephen Grenville's latest post talks about debt and deficits, two distinctly different concepts which often get confused or conflated. British PM David Cameron has been a bit naughty in this regard, and in a letter from the head of the UK's statistics authority, he's been sharply rebuked for

US budget woes: It's all politics

US fiscal policy slid over the fiscal cliff last month without serious damage and the next debt ceiling hurdle has been pushed back a few months. But the longer-term issues remain unaddressed. This failure to articulate a credible and sustainable budget strategy saps confidence and holds back a

Beidou signals China's global strides in technology

Olivia Wilson, a geoscientist and mapping specialist, wrote for The Interpreter in November about the mythical Sandy Island. The Beidou Navigation Satellite System is China's version of GPS. We all know that abbreviation and use it more than we think. GPS is the US Global Positioning System, which

Who will provide global economic leadership?

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. The world is going through a dramatic transformation with the rapid growth of the emerging economies, particularly in Asia. What does this mean for global economic leadership? Fen Osler Hampson and Paul Heinbecker from the

Frank Gehry diplomacy?

I can understand Hillary Clinton's sentiment, but I gotta quibble with the metaphor: “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek,” Clinton said, after describing the system dominated by the United Nations, NATO and several other large organizations

PNG politics: 2013 will be another tough year

Last year saw Peter O'Neill negotiate numerous hurdles and pitfalls to take (or retain, depending on your reading of the constitutional crisis in the preceding seven months) power as prime minister of Papua New Guinea. He put together a coalition government comprising around 90 of 111 MPs, giving

Hagel nomination shows Obama's realism

Tom Switzer is research associate at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney and editor of The American Review. When Chuck Hagel appears before the US Senate Armed Services Committee overnight, he is likely to face tough questions about his past positions on Iran (he prefers

Surveillance for all, of all

The Pentagon recently released new details about a 1.8 gigapixel surveillance camera it has mounted on a drone. Here's an extract from a PBS documentary that gives you an idea of what that means in practice: On first viewing, there is a certain 'gee whiz' factor to this camera and its

Why Mali matters for France and Europe

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. Mali might not be Afghanistan, but a country just south of the empty Sahara is geographically much closer to Europe. Refugees and, with a certain delay, economic migrants from

Is central bank independence at risk?

Two decades ago, monetary policy seemed to have reached the 'end of history': it had evolved an optimal format from which no further refinement seemed necessary. The two key elements were a focus on low inflation and central bank independence as the means of separating monetary policy from political

Long weekend for The Interpreter

  Tomorrow is Australia Day, which means we all get Monday off for that little extra sleep and relaxation. Enjoy the long weekend, if you're getting one, and see you Tuesday for the resumption of blogging. Photo by Flickr user iansand

Has the G20 run out of puff?

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. Having attended the G20 sessions at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), Howard Davies writes in the Financial Times that 'the G20 seems condemned to drift along, unloved and unremarked, until the next crisis, when world

The parochialism of the present

From British Prime Minister David Cameron's speech announcing his proposal for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU: What Churchill described as the twin marauders of war and tyranny have been almost entirely banished from our continent. Today, hundreds of millions dwell in freedom

Reader riposte: Airport symbolism

Steve Weintz responds to Sam Roggeveen's post on airports as national symbols: The Architecture - Design Museum in Los Angeles is currently running a major retrospective on Earo Saarinen, the designer of Dulles International and the TWA Terminal at JFK in New York. Like Oscar Niemeyer,

Emerging economies: Lucky or smart?

Last December, in a post on the future of global growth, I posed a set of questions related to the future performance of emerging markets. Will catch-up growth be sustained at pre-GFC rates or will it continue but at a slower pace, reflecting a tougher external environment? Or will the '

Iran and the cyber Cold War

Concerns over Iran's nuclear program, proven support for Shi'a groups in Lebanon and Iraq, support for the Assad regime in Syria and alleged support for just about every other opposition group in the region will ensure that, just as in 2012, Iran will continue to feature as the main security focus

Thoughts on Obama's second inaugural

It was short! That’s the first thing that struck me about the transcript; apparently he got through it in 20 minutes. The second thing that occurred to me is that this is was a fine enunciation of two defining Obama traits: political liberalism and temperamental conservatism. Andrew Sullivan's

World economy: 13 for 2013 (part 3)

This is part 3 of Mark's thirteen suggestions (in no particular order) of things to look out for in the global economy this year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.    9. Keep an eye on oil prices Despite some signs that the world is less sensitive to oil price hikes than it used to be, the

World economy: 13 for 2013 (part 2)

This is part 2 of Mark's thirteen suggestions (in no particular order) of things to look out for in the global economy this year. Part 1 is here. 5. China's growth prospects We spent quite a lot of 2012 on The Interpreter debating China's growth outlook, wondering whether last year's

World economy: 13 for 2013

It feels like a long time since we had a boring year in the world economy. Financial crises, debt crises, food crises, natural disasters, geo-economic power shifts, social upheaval and revolution have all shaped and reshaped the economic environment in recent years.  So will 2013 change the

Putting the heat on credit rating agencies

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. Following a path-breaking Australian court judgment against Standard & Poors (S&P), Stephen Grenville, in a blog post on 14 November, notes how credit rating agencies (CRAs), 'by

New Zealand beer diplomacy

Thanks to the folk at the Asia New Zealand Foundation for alerting me to this world exclusive from Beer & Brewer Magazine. It's the New Zealand Foreign Ministry's reply to an FOI requests asking for 'a list of every New Zealand beer brand served at each New Zealand Embassy, High Commission or

Is the G20 agenda too big?

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. Mark Thirlwell is Director of the Lowy Institute's International Economy Program and a G20 Studies Centre Fellow. Is the G20 agenda expanding too widely at a time when its top priority should be on reinvigorating global

More on why economic policy fails

  Unemployment in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The above graph (h/t RCW and Early Warning) reminds us that the policy failures Stephen Grenville described in his piece earlier today are, above all, an enormous human tragedy. But there's slightly Brechtian subtext to Stephen's

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