1 IMF cuts US growth forecast for 2014 (BBC) The International Monetary Fund has slashed its US growth forecast, urged policy makers to keep interest rates low and raise the minimum wage to strengthen its recovery. The crisis lender said it expects 2% growth this year, down from its April forecast of 2.8%, after a “harsh winter” led to a weak first quarter.
However it expects 3% growth in 2015. It also said the US should increase its minimum wage to help address its 15% poverty rate.
World economics correspondent Andrew Walker, writes: The recovery from the great recession is a lot more advanced in the US than in many other developed economies. Even so, the IMF sees some important weaknesses. It calls for a catalogue of measures to boost what it calls the modest prospects for productivity growth.
Job growth, it says has been healthy, but the labour market is weaker than is suggested by the headline numbers for people out of work. Long-term unemployment is high and many people are not even seeking work, which means they don’t register in the official jobless numbers. Wages are stagnant and poverty is stuck at more than 15%. Seven years on from the onset of the financial crisis, the scars on the wider US economy – never mind some European countries – have still not really healed.
2 Democracy in decline in Eurasia (Sean Anderson in The Guardian) Eastern Europe has suffered a sharp democratic decline in the last year, according to a new report by Freedom House. Since 1995, the US-based non-governmental organisation has been producing Nations in Transit report series has monitored democratic development from central Europe to central Asia, focusing on countries that are undergoing significant reform or turmoil.
Covering 29 countries, this year’s report provides comparative ratings and in-depth analysis of local and national democratic governance in the post-communist world. The report opens with this assertion: Throughout 2013, governments across the former Soviet space worked to shut off the remaining oxygen supply to their democratic institutions.
As in every year for the past 10 years the average democracy score for the region declined in 2013, with 16 countries suffering downgrades, five improving, and eight not registering an overall score change.
3 Amazon may launch smartphone (Wendy Lee in San Francisco Chronicle) Amazon is expected to unveil a new smartphone on Wednesday, according to the New York Times. The new product may compete against smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung. The decision comes at a time when more consumers are consolidating their devices and Amazon may see that as a threat to the Kindle, said Rebecca Lieb, an industry analyst.
But the New York Times points out that other tech companies have struggled to compete in this space. From the story: A Google smartphone, the Nexus One, failed to catch on. Google next bought Motorola and then dumped it. BlackBerry, once the dominant smartphone maker, is struggling to survive. Microsoft’s Windows Phone has less than 3 percent of the global market. A Facebook phone stumbled last year.
Lieb said Amazon can compete in areas like price, service and user experience. Forbes reports that Amazon’s smart phone could increase its sales by $3 billion. Amazon did not immediately return a call for comment.
4 Where are our girls? (Khaleej Times) It is often said that a story lives for a day. So seems to be the case with abducted Nigerian girls who are unaccounted for to this day. The extremist organisation Boko Haram, which claims to hold those 248 plus girls in captivity, is at large, and no amount of international pressure and aerial surveillance had been able to secure the release of those poor souls. The apathy is that early this month, Boko Haram claimed that it had kidnapped more girl students from the nearby villages, thus embarrassing the government of President Jonathan Goodluck, which had not been able to do enough in bringing them back home.
It is no less than a mystery that the manhunt launched by several countries, including the US, along with their state-of-art gadgets had yielded no positive results. Whereas, the reclusive organisation claims that they are very much on the Nigerian soil, and not been moved to any neighbouring marshlands. It is feared that some of the girls may never be able to return home as their life and security had been compromised due to the delayed response of the authorities in going after the culprits.
And now the deal that Jonathan’s administration is cobbling with the militants seems to be too little, too late. The media, nonetheless, shouldn’t lose sight of the story and never let the girls end up in oblivion.