1 Surprise stimulus move by Bank of Japan (BBC) Japan’s central bank has surprised markets by announcing an expansion of its monetary stimulus policy. The Bank of Japan said it would increase its asset buying programme to 80 trillion yen ($726bn) a year, up from the previous rate of 60-70 trillion yen. Japan’s economy is currently experiencing weak growth and inflation.
The bank’s decision to increase its stimulus measure comes in the same week that the US Federal Reserve ended its policy of quantitative easing. The BOJ’s move was made amid weak domestic demand following an April sales tax hike, and concerns that lower oil prices would affect consumer prices. At a news conference following the central bank’s meeting, BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda said it was a “critical moment for Japan to emerge from deflation”.
Japan has struggled with deflation, or falling prices, for more than 15 years – a situation which has led to stagnant economic growth. Private consumption makes up some 60% of Japan’s economic activity and deflation trends in the country have seen consumers hold onto their money in the hope of even lower prices later on. A sales tax hike made in April may have had an adverse impact on the economy, too, hurting the nation’s purchasing power. The BOJ’s inflation target is 2%.
2 Amazon rainforest deforestation at tipping point (Jonathan Watts in The Guardian) The Amazon rainforest has degraded to the point where it is losing its ability to benignly regulate weather systems, according to a stark new warning from one of Brazil’s leading scientists.
In a new report, Antonio Nobre, researcher in the government’s space institute, Earth System Science Centre, says the logging and burning of the world’s greatest forest might be connected to worsening droughts – such as the one currently plaguing São Paulo – and is likely to lead eventually to more extreme weather events.
A draft warns that the “vegetation-climate equilibrium is teetering on the brink of the abyss.” If it tips, the Amazon will start to become a much drier savanna, which calamitous consequences. The Amazon works as a giant pump, channeling moisture inland via aerial rivers and rainclouds that form over the forest more dramatically than over the sea, the author says. It also provides a buffer against extreme weather events, such as tornados and hurricanes.
In the past 20 years the Amazon has lost 763,000 sq km, an area the size of two Germanys. In addition another 1.2m sq km has been estimated as degraded by cutting below the canopy and fire. As a result, the deterioration of the rainforest has resulted in a decrease in forest transpiration and a lengthening of dry seasons.
Whether the government listens, however, is another matter. Forest clearance has accelerated under Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, after efforts to protect the Amazon were weakened. Last month, satellite data indicated a 190% surge in deforestation in August and September. The influence of the “ruralista” agribusiness lobby in Congress has also grown in recent years, making it harder for the authorities to push through new legislation to demarcate reserves.
3 Middle age as the best time of life (Sushmita Bose in Khaleej Times) If there is anything that confounds me more than the sneering way middle-agers are treated, it is the very definition of middle age. What is middle age?
It should, ideally, be that cusp that lies somewhere in the middle of your well-spent life. So, if you had been born in the Bronze and Iron Ages, you could have had a midlife crisis while you were about 12 or 13. General life expectancy was 26. Today, the global median for life expectancy is about 67, so middle age should set in around 32-33, right? But why doesn’t it? Just the other day, I heard someone say something about “young people” in the age bracket of 20 to 44. Huh?
And there’s some more confusion. Life expectancies vary from country to country. In the UAE, it is pegged at around 77. In the UK, 81. In India, it’s 66. Despite the world’s ageist ambivalence middle age is a comforting thought. It’s a buffer. That ground which you can stretch as you will, given the bundle of contradictions it espouses, to soak up your (remaining) youthful energy and prep you up for the stepping into the sphere of silver linings.
I leave you with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt to ponder over: “The only time you really live fully is from 30 to 60. The young are slaves to dreams; the old, servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.”