1 IMF boss call to avoid decade of low growth (Phillip Inman in The Guardian) The boss of the International Monetary Fund has made an impassioned plea for governments to make the next decade one of sustainable and inclusive growth that cuts national debt burdens and tackles high unemployment.
Christine Lagarde warned that developed and emerging economies still suffering the after-effects of the 2008 crash must collaborate better to avoid an era of low growth. Lagarde welcomed a recovery in the US and UK, which she said was “firming up”, but voiced concerns about the eurozone and pointed to Russia and Brazil as major trading nations in economic trouble.
She said: “With overall growth moderate, the global economy continues to face a number of significant challenges. For example, what I have called the ‘low-low, high-high’ scenario: the risk of low growth-low inflation and high debt-high unemployment persists for a number of advanced economies.”
Calling for extra effort to rebuild battered consumer and business confidence, she invoked speeches by former US president John F Kennedy and Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill, who she quoted saying: “I never worry about action, only inaction.”
Lagarde also criticised European governments for allowing thousands of zombie companies to continue rolling over unsustainable debts seven years after the crash. In a clear reference to the stagnation suffered by Japan over two decades, she said: “Effective insolvency frameworks are crucial to tackle the private debt overhang and deal with the total stock of €900bn in non-performing loans that is blocking credit channels.”
2 Forty years since Cambodia ‘handed to butcher’ (Denis D Gray, Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle) Twelve helicopters, bristling with guns and US Marines began a daring descent toward Cambodia’s besieged capital. Residents believed the Americans were rushing in to save them, but at the US Embassy, in a bleeding city about to die, the ambassador wept. Forty years later, John Gunther Dean recalls one of the most tragic days of his life — April 12, 1975, the day the US “abandoned Cambodia and handed it over to the butcher.”
“We’d accepted responsibility for Cambodia and then walked out without fulfilling our promise. That’s the worst thing a country can do. And I cried because I knew what was going to happen,” he says. Five days after the dramatic evacuation of Americans, the US-backed government fell to communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas. They drove Phnom Penh’s 2 million inhabitants into the countryside at gunpoint. Nearly 2 million Cambodians — one in every four — would die from executions, starvation and hideous torture.
Many foreigners present during the final months remain haunted to this day by Phnom Penh’s death throes, by the heartbreaking loyalty of Cambodians who refused evacuation and by what Dean calls Washington’s “indecent act.” I count myself among those foreigners, a reporter who covered the Cambodian War for The Associated Press and was whisked away along with Dean and 287 other Americans, Cambodians and third country nationals.
“It was the first time Americans came anywhere close to losing a war. What worries me and many of us old guys who were there is that we are still seeing it happen,” says Frank Snepp, a senior CIA officer in Saigon and author of “Decent Interval.” After Cambodia and Vietnam came Laos; there would be other conflicts with messy endings, like Central America in the 1980s, Iraq and — potentially — Afghanistan.
Today, at 89, Dean and his French wife reside in an elegant Paris apartment graced by statues of Cambodian kings from the glory days of the Angkor Empire. A folded American flag lies across his knees, the same one he clutched under his arm in a plastic bag as he sped to the evacuation site. Captured by a photographer, it became one of the most memorable images of the Vietnam War era.
The former ambassador to four other countries is highly critical of America’s violation of Cambodian neutrality by armed incursions from neighboring Vietnam and a secret bombing campaign in the early 1970s. The US bombed communist Vietnamese sanctuaries and supply lines along the Vietnam-Cambodia border, keeping Cambodia’s Lon Nol government propped up as an anti-communist enclave, but it provided World War II aircraft and few artillery pieces to Phnom Penh forces fighting the Khmer Rouge.
Congress was cutting the aid lifeline to Phnom Penh. The American public had had enough of the war. The embassy closed down at 9:45 a.m., the evacuees driven to a soccer field. The “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters were setting down. Children and mothers scrambled over fences to watch. They cheered, clapped and waved. I tried to avoid looking into faces of the crowd. Always with me will be the children’s little hands aflutter and their singsong “OK, Bye-bye, bye-bye.”
3 Where women can be lawyers but can’t drive (Louise Redvers on BBC) Change is coming, albeit slowly, for Saudi women. For many years strict laws and conservative traditions have kept Saudi women out of the workplace. Some 60% of Saudi university graduates are female, but barely 15% of the Kingdom’s women have jobs.
Slowly, however, restrictions are loosening. The number of Saudi women employed in the Kingdom’s private sector grew from just 55,000 in 2010 to 454,000 by the end of 2013, according to figures from the Saudi Ministry of Labour.
This increase is credited to both campaigning by women and a series of reforms by the late King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who during his final years in office accepted women onto the Shura Council (Saudi Arabia’s formal advisory body), appointed the first female vice minister and generally relaxed rules on the kinds of jobs women could do.
Saudi women are now permitted to work in retail and hospitality; the first Saudi female lawyers were granted their practising certificates in late 2013; and the Kingdom now employs women nationals for its diplomatic services. As well, females can now hold jobs as newspaper editors and television chat-show hosts.
While female graduates are well qualified and many have wanted to work, they have lacked basic knowledge about the workplace. In many cases, they had never experienced mixing with men who weren’t family members, according to Khalid AlKhudair, the founder and CEO of Glowork, Saudi Arabia’s first recruitment agency specifically for women.
Under Saudi law, all women and girls are required to have a male guardian. That guardian can be their father, brother, husband, or even a son, and he has to grant the woman permission to do a range of things from travelling, working, marrying, divorcing, opening a bank account and having medical procedures. Different families apply guardianship restricts to different degrees.
Significant obstacles still remain for Saudi women who want to work outside the traditional sectors of teaching and healthcare. Saudi Arabian women aren’t allowed to drive, which also holds back female employment. To give jobs to Saudi women without upsetting conservative values held by many families, who don’t want women mixing with men who aren’t relatives, some firms are creating female-only workplaces.