The New Guest Workers: A German Dream for Crisis Refugees

4.0.1Half a century after her grandfather took the train from Seville, Spain, to Germany, Carolina López, 28, bought a ticket on a budget airline to Berlin. It was the dismal situation in Spain that prompted her to make the move in the late summer of 2012. Spanish economy is reeling, one in four Spaniards is unemployed. Joblessness is rampant among young people. López went to Germany looking for work, most of all, a future. It was a similarly distressed situation at home prompted her grandfather to go to Germany in 1961, because he couldn’t make enough money in Spain to feed his family. When Carol López talks about her grandfather, though, she still thinks of more differences than similarities. Germany with which she´s familiar from his stories no longer exists. Only German her grandfather Juan remembers is the foreman at the Continental tire factory in Korbach, who was constantly shouting at him. Juan, whose goal was to make money quickly, returned to Spain as fast as he could. Carolina López is indistinguishable from other young women in Berlin. She wears a loose shirt over her skinny jeans, and skateboard shoes on her feet. She laughs readily and often, she takes life seriously, but not too seriously. López lived in a shared apartment in Berlin for half a year when she studied marketing there in 2009. Berlin seemed free-spirited and international to her, says López, and more modern than Spanish cities. Now she’s back, this time she wants to live and work in Berlin, and even make it her home. A new generation of immigrants is coming to Germany: Europe’s crisis refugees. They are young, well-educated, multilingual. Many feel that their prospects at home disappeared when the European financial system began to falter, followed by the collapse of domestic labor markets in number of countries. They are now going to Germany, just as their grandparents did half-century ago, in search of a new future. In 1960s, guest workers from Southern Europe were the first large immigrant group to move to West Germany to find work. Now their grandchildren are following suit, forming next major wave of immigrants coming to Germany for jobs. Like their elders before, they are in Germany to find jobs and opportunities that their native countries cannot provide. This time, members of new wave of immigrants are working in university laboratories rather than on assembly lines. Instead of doing the work others won’t, they are moving into corner offices, becoming senior physicians, designing products for others to assemble. They have better educations and are more self-confident than previous immigrant generations, and for this reason see themselves as neither guests nor workers. Instead, they feel that they are European citizens and take it for granted they belong anywhere in Europe, and will leave again if they find that they like it better someplace else. They constitute an elite that is now immigrating and changing society’s image of immigrants (…..)



Out of the Office, on the Clock

CLOCKSWorkers Know Where to Work. Organizations trying to decide whether + when to allow people to work remotely are stuck in the last century. In the 1950s, requiring employees to work in the same location made a lot of sense. But we’ve evolved, as civilizations tend to. Today we have numerous tools allow us to work from literally anywhere on planet. We are moving forward, society is aligned in favor of a 24/7 economy that rewards personal responsibility and freedom. It’s not about who’s in the office vs. who has gotten a special pass to work outside the building. Responsibility+freedom. Responsibility for the work, and the freedom to do it in a way makes common sense. Managers are playing hall monitor instead of getting crystal clear with each employee about the delivering measurable results. Managed flexibility is outdated, just paternalistic behavior of granting permission for people to work outside of the 1952 constraints of time and place. Organizations can trust their employees to own their work and manage their time without vintage H.R. policies about office hours or remote working. Managing someone’s time is a way of saying, “I don’t know how to effectively manage the work, so now I’m going to try to manage you.” Treat people like the adults that they are, and they will act like adults. Treat them like children, you’ll find yourself with a workplace full of people who are watching the clock tick waiting for the bell so they can make a mass exodus. Our advice: Focus on managing the work, not the people. People can manage themselves. Get clear on what needs to get done and how it’s being measured, stop managing how and where people do it. If they don’t deliver, they’re out. No results? No job. Welcome to the 21st century.

Room For Debate: 

Economic crisis ‘balkanized’ global finance

McKinsey Global InstituteThe economic crises in United States and Europe wiped out decades of progress in expanding the world financial system, depressing the flow of investments and loans across borders and potentially setting the stage for an epoch of entrenched low growth, according to a new study on global finance patterns. The McKinsey Global Institute report combines databases from International Monetary Fund, global central banks and other sources to try to sum up what has been lost in the aftermath of 2008 Lehman Bros. failure and subsequent crisis in the eurozone. (Howard Schneider – The Washington Post – 28/02/2013)

Top findings: amount of investments and loans flowing across international borders has collapsed. The overall value of financial assets compared to the size of the world economy is way down. And, in a sign of how government policy has struggled with mixed results to revive growth, composition of world financial holdings has shifted away from equity investments like stocks, toward government debt. Five years after the crisis, report’s authors say, it remained unclear whether world financial markets would recover the depth and strength they exhibited in the decades before 2007, historic year when $11.8 trillion in investments and loans traded hands across borders, and total financial assets in the world equaled 355% of world economic output. For 2012, annual cross-border investments remained below $5 trillion and total value of financial assets had fallen to 312% of global gross domestic product.

Some of that decline represents “a necessary correction” from the real estate and stock market bubbles that set the stage for the crisis, report states. But “there is also a chance that this correction may overshoot, reducing flow of private-sector financing needed for recovery and a return to economic growth.” “The financial crisis continues to have lingering and profound effects,” the report concludes. “For three decades, capital markets and banking systems rapidly expanded and diversified, but now that process … has largely ground to a halt.” With the banks, particularly in Europe, shedding assets around the world and in many instances narrowing their businesses because of their own financial weakness or new regulations, the risk is of a financial “balkanization,” with money less likely to flow around the globe and constraints on ability of businesses and households to finance investments and purchases. The findings of report reflect on a global scale some of the regional trends have preoccupied policymakers since crisis. Eurozone, for example, accounts for much of decline in cross-border finance, with banks in healthy European countries pulling out of weaker southern European locales and scaling back some aspects of their global business. But, in a sign that globalization isn’t so much reversing as changing its nature, developing nations continue to benefit from strong inflows of foreign money, evidence of their increasingly important role in the world system.

The study demonstrates the dilemma international policymakers face as they try to develop new regulations for global finance. Much of their discussion has focused on how to set rules would keep global banks in business and encourage them to make sound loans, while curbing the excesses that led the world into recession. One of the central tradeoffs in that debate is between stability and growth and how far policymakers should go to curb potential asset bubbles or other risky events, even if that means slowing sustainable economic growth in process. To some degree, the dynamics described in the McKinsey study may be what a more stable financial system entails, less leverage, less “fast money” running into and out of world markets, less risk. But it also represents a setback: After a 17-fold increase in value of world financial assets between 1980 and 2007, to $206 trillion from $12 trillion, the figure is now growing at just 1.9 percent annually; cross-border financial flows, as a percentage of economic output, are now at levels more akin to early 90s. “While some of correction is healthy, if we see a continuation of these trends, it threatens recovery,” said Susan Lund, a McKinsey principal and one of the report’s authors. “It is not the end of the global banking, but it is a significant retrenchment …. It questions whether we will ever see a recovery.” 

Obama 2.0 Confronts Asia

October 2013Barack Obama was broadly successful in the Asia-Pacific during his first term. He’ll have to work harder the second time around. President Obama begins his second term with a new national security team in the making. Although at this time only John Kerry has been confirmed, its seem likely that most, if not all of his key nominees (the former Senator Hagel, John Brennan, Jack Lew) will secure Senate confirmation in the coming weeks. Obama has clearly resolved to make Asia his priority region on foreign-policy front. Has spent more time in East Asia than in any other foreign region. Most Asian leaders have welcomed Obama’s reelection, though political transitions in China, Japan, South Korea increase uncertainties over how long such views will prevail. During its first term, administration managed to make progress in resolving important issues and exploiting valuable opportunities regarding both traditional U.S. allies (as Japan and South Korea), emerging partners (ASEAN). In other cases, as with Russia and India, results have been mixed. But during the next 4 years the administration faces major challenges in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea,and above all China, for which no easy solutions are available. Pentagon has been able to expand defense cooperation with Southeast Asia, case in Singapore (preparations are currently underway for basing of U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ships at Changi Pier), Indonesia (new arms sales and joint training, education opportunities), Vietnam (expanding engagement to encompass port visits, joint exercises, defense dialogues). Another core element of Asia Pivot is bolstering local militaries’ capacities to deal with lower-level threats. For example, the Obama administration wants to enhance the air and naval capabilities of friendly maritime states so that they can help protect international waterways from pirates and other threats to freedom of the seas, allowing U.S. Navy to focus on higher-end threats. To further this goal, United States is selling 24 F-16C/Ds to Indonesia and coastal ships to Philippines. Similarly, United States is helping countries build stronger ground forces to suppress local terrorists, insurgents. Border security programs also extend to encompass potential movement of nuclear+other dangerous materials to global markets. All these capabilities promote the security of international air and maritime commons, which serve as the foundation of the global economy. Obama administration launched a sustained+largely successful diplomatic campaign to reenergize U.S. relations with ASEAN leaders, who complained they were being neglected under previous administration. Obama’s decision to accede to ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation was received positively by ASEAN leaders, who benefited from the regular meetings with their US counterparts. They welcomed administration’s successful outreach effort regarding Myanmar. Economic ties between ASEAN and United States made major progress when, in November 2012, Obama hosted talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative at meetings of the East Asia Summit and ASEAN in Cambodia. They set October 2013 as the date when they would like to reach an agreement creating a comprehensive regional trade agreement (…..)


La redistribución del poder mundial empuja los acuerdos interregionales

Barack ObamaPara el presidente Obama el TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) ha ocupado lugar central en su estrategia comercial internacional. Ahora tiene compañía. En su mensaje anual al Congreso, Barack Obama colocó al TPP junto a un nuevo protagonista: el Tatip (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Lo hizo en un mensaje con una tónica positiva sobre el crecimiento económico, equidad social, empleo, comercio exterior, seguridad en Estados Unidos. El TTP y el Tatip son los únicos pilares estratégicos que mencionó al referirse al comercio internacional. Nada dijo sobre la Rueda Doha y al no decir nada, quizá dijo mucho. (Félix Peña – La Nació – 26/02/2013)

Ambos pilares reflejan similares objetivos en espacios interregionales con fuerte valor geopolítico. Consisten en lograr, a través de acuerdos preferenciales, lo que por el momento no parece alcanzable en el marco multilateral de la OMC. O sea, algo ambicioso, abarcativo, flexible y de alta calidad. Por un lado, implica incorporar al acervo de compromisos internacionales amplia eliminación de aranceles y de otras restricciones al comercio de bienes, también procurar una mayor nivelación del campo de juego en materia de marcos regulatorios, por ejemplo, relacionados con normas técnicas o que aspiran a garantizar la calidad de los alimentos, cuestión ésta de actualidad en el imaginario de consumidores y ciudadanos tras episodio de la carne equina en Europa. Por otro lado, es avanzar mucho más de lo que sería viable hoy en el marco multilateral, especialmente en materia servicios, inversiones, propiedad intelectual y compras públicas.

Estos acuerdos aspirarían a señalizar, por caso, lo que tendrían que ser en la visión de sus promotores las disciplinas colectivas multilaterales en un mundo multipolar, en el que el comercio y las inversiones se canalizan cada vez más en ámbito de cadenas transnacionales de valor. Ningunas de las 2 negociaciones son fáciles. Pueden fracasar. Por algo el fantasma ALCA flota en el ambiente. TPP se concluiría en octubre. Al menos por ahora. Sobre el Tatip lo que se anunció es el inicio de procedimientos internos en ambas partes, a fin de comenzar a negociar lo más pronto posible. Comisión Europea espera tener mandato aprobado en el primer semestre del año. Son negociaciones con muchos nudos a desatar, algunos son sensibles. Cuestión agrícola es uno, al menos en espacio transatlántico. La protección de la propiedad intelectual es otro, al menos en espacio transpacífico. Pero hay muchos otros que pondrán a prueba la expresión que también en las negociaciones comerciales “el diablo está en los detalles”. Sus objetivos son tan ambiciosos y complejos que pueden tener razón quienes sostienen que “con que consigamos la mitad de los objetivos ya sería mucho”. TPP tiene ya acumuladas quince rondas negociadoras. En marzo se realizará la próxima. Por ahora ya son once los países participantes, con dimensiones e intereses muy dispares. China no participa. Pero sí lo hace en la gestación del Recep (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), acuerdo significativo originado en la Asean. A su vez, Tatip refleja una idea con raíces. Se asienta en un denso tejido de intereses cruzados entre ambos lados del Atlántico Norte. Sumados sus países representan 50% del producto mundial. Su comercio recíproco significa un tercio del global. Ahora podrá tener, además, el peso de la voluntad política que es indispensable para concluir cualquier negociación comercial ambiciosa.

Como sostuvo hace poco Pascal Lamy (director general de la OMC), “la geopolítica ha retornado a la mesa del comercio”. En la creación del GATT, el impulso provino de la política exterior de grandes potencias, especialmente Estados Unidos, interesadas en detener la expansión soviética. La Rueda de Doha se lanzó en el clima traumático post 9-11. A pesar de la ilusión de que sólo son factores económicos los que movilizan las estrategias comerciales externas, hoy está claro que es en la actual redistribución del poder mundial donde deben rastrearse los factores que impulsan a la proliferación de los acuerdos preferenciales interregionales. Pero teniendo en cuenta el debilitamiento del marco multilateral OMC, la gran duda que habrá que despejar es sobre si tal proliferación contribuirá o no a los objetivos de gobernanza global. Sumados los TTP, Tatip y Recep, a los TLC que la UE negocia, entre otros, con India y con Canadá, de concluirse respectivos acuerdos producirían cambios profundos en mapa institucional del comercio mundial. Sus resultados no serían indiferentes para ningún país, sobre todo si no son parte de algunos de los acuerdos. Incluso pueden acentuarse efectos de demostración en socios del Mercosur. Algunos de ellos ya se han manifestado en Brasil. En sectores densos en productos y servicios inteligentes, efectos de estos nuevos acuerdos podrían ser significativos. Por ello son negociaciones que conviene seguir de cerca y con mucha atención. 

A political DUI

An Accident Waiting To HappenSome of us can recall the helpless feeling of being in a vehicle driven by someone who is intoxicated. If you’re like me, you don’t want to cause a scene unless the driving is really erratic. But there comes a moment when you need to say: Stop the car. You’re going to hurt someone. Hand over the keys. We have a political system is the equivalent of a drunk driver. The primary culprits are the House Republicans. They are so intoxicated with their own ideology they are ready to drive nation’s car off the road. I don’t know if the sequestration that’s set to begin Friday will produce a little crisis or a big one; the sad fact is that the Republicans don’t know, either, yet they’re still willing to put the country at risk to make a political point. (source: David Ignatius – The Washington Post – 26/02/2013)

I’m no fan of the way President Barack Obama has handled fiscal crisis. As I’ve written often, he needs to provide presidential leadership that guides Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward destination where most maps show we need to be heading: namely, balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue. Instead, Obama has chosen to be co-dependent, as psychologists describe those who foster destructive behavior of others. He double-dared the reckless Republicans by proposing the sequester back in 2011. And rather than stepping up to leadership since being reelected, he has triple-dared the GOP hotheads with a partisan inaugural address and weeks of what the Republicans rightly have called a “road show” of blame-game politics. Doesn’t the president see that the GOP is addicted to this showdown at Thunder Road? This is all the power GOP has these days, really, the ability to scare the heck out of everybody and run the car into the ditch. Much as I would criticize Obama, it’s wrong to say both sides are equally to blame for what’s about to hit us. This isn’t a one-off case of Republicans using Obama’s sequestration legislation to force reckless budget cuts. It’s a pattern of behavior: First the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling; then they were careening toward “fiscal cliff.” This isn’t a legislative tactic anymore; it’s an addiction. Where did this recklessness come from? Only a few years ago, George W. Bush was a compassionate conservative and John McCain won GOP nomination as the Republican who knew how to govern across the party lines. What happened to that Republican Party? Today’s Republicans seem to suffer from what’s sometimes known as Obama Derangement Syndrome, in which their hatred of the president blinds them to country’s interests. To be honest, this malady is eerily similar to the Bush Derangement Syndrome that afflicted Democrats during the previous decade.

The Democrats were so incensed back then, they stopped caring whether America succeeded or failed in Iraq; Republicans are so angry now that they don’t care whether the economy goes to hell. So how can we get these incapacitated drivers to stop before they do any more damage? If this were really a case of chronic drinkers, answer would be an intervention to keep them off the road. In politics, the public gets to intervene through elections. We just had one, and Republicans lost, big time. Yet it didn’t seem to make much difference. The House Republicans are still grabbing for the wheel, and the car is rumbling toward trouble. Obama tries everything to gain control, except a clear, firm presidential statement that speaks to everyone onboard, those who voted for him and those who didn’t, that could get the country where it needs to go. The weird thing is that, politics aside, there is every reason to be optimistic about America’s future. The country’s financial markets are resilient; the housing slump finally seems to be ending; a new era of low-cost shale oil and gas is beginning and, as a result, the United States is becoming a competitive manufacturing economy again. There’s one ruinously dysfunctional part of the American story, the breakdown of our political system. It’s time for an intervention, to take the keys away.

Hawkish Chinese General Joins Social Media Fray

Luo YuanHawkish and well-connected Chinese major general, Luo Yuan, who last year reportedly recommended turning islands in East China Sea claimed by both China and Japan into a shooting range, has debuted in China’s enormously popular world of microblogging with the announcement “we must fight for our beloved fatherland, beloved party, beloved army and beloved people!” Luo also wrote in what appeared to be his first post Friday that he had received “permission” (Chinese media reported that it came from People’s Liberation Army) to set up the account. In the past, members of the military have been barred from opining online, reports said (though some do, including an air force colonel, Dai Xu, who has a microblog). Some person or persons, possibly high up in the security or propaganda system, seem to have had a change of heart about that general policy, the man who reportedly said last September China should cooperate with Taiwan’s military in“people’s war at sea”, blasting disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands “Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” while Taiwanese could do it “Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday”, is back, characteristically vocal. Mr. Luo is believed to be close to incoming Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and his father, Luo Qingchang, was an early member of the Communist Party and a senior official and intelligence officer, according to Chinese and overseas Web sites. In his post, he wrote that microblogging is “a very important public opinion front. If you don’t speak out, others will, even impersonating your voice to make a din.” Quoting 20th-century writer Lu Xun (but without attribution), wrote: “We will no longer be silent. We either die in the silence, we explode in the silence,” a well-known call to speak out. Many conservatives and nationalists in China believe microblogs have been largely captured by “liberal” voices and General Luo has said elsewhere that he wanted to offer another voice. The general, whose debut messages have garnered more than 10.000 “likes” (thumbs-up signs) so far, whose initial statement was forwarded nearly 40,000 times over the first three days, gives his views on issues such as North Korea’s recent nuclear test; he said “North Korea problem is the product of the cold war problem, main players are U.S. and North Korea” (…..)