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The News That Shaped the Month – January 2017

Business recap – by Nando Slijkerman

A new year means new records and so the Dow Jones exceeded 20,000. A new all-time-high! Let’s see what that will bring us. Unemployment decreases, inflation is increasing, and real estate is rising again. All lights are on green, so let’s face some economic growth!

Donald Trump announced that he would have a “fantastic” relationship with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, promising to work closely on trade and defense as her country exits the European Union. That might have a positive impact on several (American) investment banks based in London.

Let’s have a look at the numbers. AEX rose modestly with a small 0,71% this month. S&P rose 2,0% and the Dow Jones 1,31%. American markets apparently reacted positively to Trump’s inauguration. Let’s see if he will keep his promises (which might be good for America’s economy). Our German neighbors (DAX) finished first by increasing 3,17%.

If you compare the AEX with S&P and the Dow Jones, you see that AEX had a little underperformance this month in comparison to America’s greats.

UvA recap – by Raffaele Di Carlo

Well, a lot has been said and done about it, but the results of the famous Democratisering & Decentralisering (D&D) Referendum are possibly the most sensational news concerning our university for the month of January. The results were formally presented by the D&D Commission at CREA on the 25th of January. The turnout was fairly low among students (11.7%) and still unsatisfactory among staff (37.4%), however a quick inspection of the polls revealed the general sentiment of this sample: a vast majority is in favor of change under the form of a new-style Senate and a charter of core values. As far as the four governance models are concerned, students manifested a preference for the yellow model (33%), while staff preferred the blue model (34%).

The D&D Referendum was an advisory referendum, meaning that its result would serve as a compass for the Executive Board of the University of Amsterdam for future policy making. So what do these results imply? To begin with, we can expect the senate to be reformed and the charter of values to be implemented soon. About the governance models, the preferences expressed by the voters suggest a need for larger external participation by students and workers councils; therefore, we can expect an expansion in the power of such councils.

Economics recap – by Yana Chernysh

British government expects future wage growth to return in 2017. This may happen because of the workers willing to quit their job without first finding a new place, as there are a lot of vacancies available (around 750,000). That is why employees want to keep their workers by raising their salaries.

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Jannet Yellen, said that it is expected that Central bank will be rising interest rates a few times a year in the nearest future. This decision is made in order to stabilize economy, which is still recovering from 2008 crisis. However, rising interest rates too high and too fast may lead to another recession.

Negotiations are happening around the free-trade agreement of the UK. While leaving the EU, UK is discussing new trade agreements with at least 12 new countries, trying to put itself in a position of a global free trade champion (as stated by the prime minister). Although these decisions are very controversial, as they may be breaking the EU laws, the UK is not fully tied with the EU boundaries anymore, so these negotiations may take place.

The Courgette Crisis – by Artur Rymer Following the old proverbial wisdom – it never rains but it pours – the UK seems to be facing problem after problem after problem with no solution in sight. But however uncertain the situation might in the context of Brexit and UK’s post-EU path, it pales in comparison to the newest of catastrophes – the courgette crisis.

Have you ever wondered how is it possible that during cold winter months in the northern part of Europe we still have access to cheap vegetables and fruits? The answer is: south of Europe, mainly Spain and Italy. Unfortunately, this winter, due to heavy rain and snowfalls as well as unusually low temperatures in the south of the continent (checkmate, global warming supporters!), the supply of courgettes, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and celery dropped dramatically and so the prices surged up. The result? Empty vegetable shelves in Britain’s supermarkets and shattered dreams of those whose new year resolution was a healthy diet and those for whom courgettes are essential for a successful evening with friends.

Like most of Britain’s problems, this one is not going to go away anytime soon and may persists for several months. Truly, it’s scary to think what will happen to the good people of Britain when there are both no courgettes and no access to the single market.

World Economic Forum Conference in Davos – by Hải Đăng Vũ

The presidential inauguration of Donald Trump might have foreshadowed the most important economic development of the past month. As usual, world leaders gathered together for the World Economic Forum (WEF) conference in Davos, Switzerland, for its annual meeting with regards not only into economic problems, but also other related issues such as politics and environment.

The first day of the conference welcomed speeches from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who highlighted the significant importance of maintaining global trade liberalization. Also attending the conference was GB’s PM Theresa May, as she attempted to convince the world that Brexit campaign was beneficial for any party involved.

However, the primary theme of the meeting centered on the overall economic impact caused by the development of robotics and industrial development. While businesses believed that more exploration should be focused on this arena, this presented massive threats to long-term unemployment, where the increasing degree of robotic automation is hurting white-collar jobs.

Climate change, immigration, and terrorism were also amongst the most debated topics in the conference.Some interesting economic developments of 2016 were also highlighted, especially the Asian stock market crash during the summer and the unfavorable macroeconomic outlook of the Chinese economy.

Politics Recap – by Leonie Ernst

Concerning politics, a lot has happened this month. Most important is probably Donald Trump’s inauguration. During Trump’s first presidential speech he promised his people that from then onwards it would only be ‘America first’ – the Dutch satirical show ‘Zondag met Lubach’ suggested that ‘The Netherlands second’ would be a great idea too.

Trump started to keep all the promises made concerning the TTP, abortions, the North Dakota pipelines, the wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, and he announced that the U.S. will stop granting visas to refugees for the coming four months. Nevertheless, Trump also announced to be willing to create safe zones in Syria, to help refugees over there.

In African Gambia, president Yahya Jammeh declared the state of emergency in the country on  the 17th of January, since he believed there had been errors during the elections that he had lost in December. The Nigerian and Liberian presidents tried to come to a solution with Jammeh, but he was unwilling to negotiate. Jammeh most probably tried to extend his presidency that had already lasted for 22 years. The 19th of January, the new president Adama Barrow was appointed. Three days later, Jammeh eventually left the country.

Furthermore, the politicians Geert Wilders (NL), Marine le Pen (FR), Frauke Petry (DE), and Matteo Salvini (IT) gathered in Koblenz to present themselves as ‘the leaders of the new Europe’. With this year’s upcoming elections, the right-wing, Eurosceptic populists tried to catch the attention of European voters. Whether their gathering will have had the desired outcome will be proven later this year.

The Women’s Marches – by Tsz-Tian Lu

On January 21, just a day after Trump’s inauguration, The Women’s Marches took place around the world. It all started with a Facebook post, with the message spreading like ripples which lead to an immense amount of people responding to the call. The organisers claim that there were roughly 600 demonstrations worldwide and more than 4.7 million protesters participated in this phenomenal event, with the amount of people in Washington reaching as much as 500,000, which is twice as many as the number of people who attended the inauguration. In the U.S., protesters wore “pussy hat” to ridicule and protest against Trump’s disrespectful opinions on women as well as the minorities in the society. The primary demands of the demonstrations focused on eliminating the inequality in the rights of women, people of colour, the LGBTQ community and religious groups like Muslims. People are desperate about the hate speech, discrimination and preconception that have already torn the society apart, and they are worried that Trump’s presidency will deteriorate the situation. Nonetheless, there are also opposing opinions claiming that those protesters simply did not exert enough effort to make their lives better so they just blame it on the government.

Trump Withdraws US from TPP – By Omar Osman

After decades of a trade policy of the United States that has been characterized by a continual lowering of barriers and expansion of ties with trading partners, the new administration under Mr. Trump presidency is taking steps in the opposite direction.

On January 23rd, The US president, Donald Trump, has signed an executive order formally withdrawing the country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, following through on a promise from his presidential campaign.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The proposal was signed by Obama’s administration on February 4th, 2016, after seven years of negotiation, and it has been awaiting congress ratification. The former Obama administration claimed that the agreement aimed to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in the signatories’ countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.” The TPP contains measures to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade, and establish an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

The newly elected US president pulled out of the agreement claiming that the move is a “great thing for the American worker.”, referring to the American jobs loss due to US businesses’ outsourcing trend that has been a syndrome of such trade agreements.

Dutch Politics – by Michael van Rhee

With the general elections on March 15 in sight, tension in the Dutch political arena has been rising. January saw political parties gradually formulate their plans, carefully positioning themselves in the political spectrum. Initially, a total of 81 different parties signed up for this year’s elections, but it’s expected that tens of those will still drop off the list due to not collecting the required endorsements. For what it’s worth, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) has been leading the polls for months, but their lead has shrunk considerably during that time. On top of that, more and more party leaders have started to rule out future cooperation with said party, so it remains to be seen how much of a role Wilders will be able to play after the elections. Even prime minister Mark Rutte’s party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), recently ruled out the PVV — or did he? It’s anyone’s guess, because even though Rutte stated that the odds of working with Wilders again are 0%, he has broken a promise or two in the past. In fact, I’m still waiting for the 1,000 euros he promised me a few years ago, and if you thought that was naive, Democrats 66 (D66) party leader Alexander Pechtold recently made the same mistake by promising everyone half that amount. Get your popcorn ready, because it’s promising to be another hard-fought campaign full of accusations…

Je voudrais un Trump s’il vous plaît – by Brunno Fontanetti

Trump’s election was taken as a joke in Europe. Most countries here proud themselves for their democratic and liberal tendencies, however, the French elections can show us that this might be far from the truth. In the recent pools, two candidates are taking the lead: Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon.

These results are a sign of where France is heading after the April 23rd elections. Both candidates represent a real change in French politics: for the first time in their history, the French might choose a president who is so far on the right wing of the political spectrum.

I’m sure that until now, you must have heard about Le Pen’s speech: anti-immigration, nationalist and conservative. But I highly doubt that you saw any of Fillon’s ideals on your facebook timeline, or in the news headlines. Fillon is a right-wing conservative, who has the support of the Catholic Church and wishes to tighten the country’s relationship with the Russians. Nothing like Trump, am I right?

And the scariest part of this history has yet to reach a resolution: Fillon was recently accused of paying his wife 400,000 euros for a position of parliament assistant. He stated in a recent rally that if this is proved to be true, he will drop out of the run, and analysts say that if that happens, his votes might swing towards Le Pen.

If the country of liberty and fraternity is ready to choose such a candidate as their president, who knows which country is next?

The Romanian Fight Against Corruption – by Ioana Nicolau

After the tragedy from November 2015, where 64 people died in a fire at night club Colectiv, the Social Democrats (PSD) had to leave office due to massive protests over corruption. However, Romanians re-elected PSD during the parliamentary elections from December 2016, the party winning close to 46% of the votes. As the party is tainted by corruption, so was its first proposed PM, Liviu Dragnea, who is carrying a two-year suspended jail sentence for attempting to rig a referendum in 2012.

Just weeks after the party came to power, PSD made a priority for passing, in secret, an emergency ordinance that would pardon thousands of prisoners, suggesting that this would ease the problem of overcrowded prisons. Their intentions were blocked when the president unexpectedly attended the government meeting in which the ordinance was about to be passed. The population felt that the underlying reason for passing this ordinance was, in short, saving a gang of corrupt politicians from being sentenced to prison. This would include Liviu Dragnea and “his crew”. Thus, massive protests took place across the country and in the diaspora, with an estimated number of 30-40.000 people participating. The biggest surprise came when the Romanian president joined the protest in Bucharest on the evening of the 22nd of January, showing his firm support for the fight against corruption.

The Western Union Wire Fraud – by Evrim Öztamur

The world’s biggest money transferring company Western Union agreed to pay 586 million USD after admitting to turning a blind eye to the criminal use of the service, for purposes such as fraud and money laundering. US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission authorities reported this Thursday that Western Union, which processes transactions all over the world in over half a million access points, was letting its agents help fraudsters to process transactions and avoid detection.

Western Union agents allowed Chinese immigrants to use the service to send hundreds of millions of dollars to pay human smugglers, by sending the amounts in smaller increments to avoid transfer reporting requirements. Scammers offering job offers and fake prizes also were able to process transactions, mainly by giving the agents a share of the earnings from their scams.

These statements go to show that the problem is not exactly due to Western Union enabling fraudulent transactions, but rather not preventing agents and certain higher-ups in the organisation from committing to these actions. The reports note that it was not the case that Western Union accidentally overlooked these issues, but did not act upon them even while realising they are present in the organisation.


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