New Challenges, New Opportunities

by matttbastard

The most recent edition of openDemocracy’s 50/50 quarterly features an interview with Dr. Yakin Erturk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, on how the global economic crisis is affecting women.  Dr. Erturk also notes the import of ‘political economy’ in the pursuit of women’s rights, especially during a time of financial upheaval.

A sample:

We refer to human rights as if they were confined to civil and political rights; this is also reflected in the twin covenants which have divided rights into civil and political on the one hand, and economic and social on the other. The latter is generally seen as inspirational and the first one as the real thing. But we know from women’s lives that unless we have a holistic approach to women’s rights, whereby women can achieve economic independence or are at least empowered socially and politically, the rights they may read about in books do not reach them. So my final report to the council this year is taking up this challenge: I have argued that underneath the surface of many of the things that we talk about as being cultural, there is a solid, material basis which feeds certain concrete interests and relationships; and that unless we dig down into that base we are talking at a very abstract level. Culture can take on a life of its own, so that we assume that that is the reality, when half the time nobody really understands its true impact.

We are all cultural beings: it is very hard to attack cultures. What I wanted to do in my culture report was to connect this to a more profound analysis of concrete interests, real power – hence political economy. Particularly in the neo-liberal era, it is political economy which is creating new challenges for women’s rights, while at the same time, of course, creating some new opportunities.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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Stephen Harper on Canada’s Economy: Catch the Wave!

by matttbastard

Uncle Steve is looking onward and upward:

Faced with complaints he wasn’t doing enough to soothe a nervous nation, Harper offered a detailed, if unemotional, dissertation on the economy.

“For Canada, this crisis does offer opportunity,” Harper told more than 400 people at a joint gathering of the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade.

“Ultimately, it is an opportunity to position ourselves so that when the economic recovery comes, we’re among the first to catch the wave.”

The Prime Minister said that the government, though projecting a budget deficit for the next few years, is in the best financial shape of all G7 governments.

Harper noted that while Canada’s economy shrank at a 3.4 per cent annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, it was half the decline experienced by the United States and Europe, and only a quarter of the devastating drop in Japan.

He said Canada’s stable banking system, low debt, low inflation rate and skilled workforce puts the country in a position of “significant comparative strength” to ride out the downturn.

“I say to you, as business people, as community builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now,” Harper said to applause.

Alas, the facts (yeah, those pesky things) belie Harper’s feigned deadpan optimism:

The parliamentary budget officer says the Canadian economy is doing even worse than published figures would suggest.

Kevin Page says in a new assessment of the economy that last quarter’s 3.4 per cent contraction in gross domestic product doesn’t begin to reflect how far Canada’s performance has fallen.

He says an even better indicator is gross domestic income, which measures Canadians’ purchasing power, and that shows a plunge of 15.3 per cent in the fourth quarter over the previous three months.

Oh, and about that 3.4 per cent figure so heartily humped by the PM?

The report says even the often-cited GDP figures which finds the U.S. economy shrinking by 6.2 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to Canada’s 3.4 per cent are misleading.

Those are annualized figures, Page notes, adding that compared to a year ago, Canada’s GDP is down 0.7 per cent and the U.S. by 0.8 per cent, almost identical records.

Yeah.

Almost identical.

Don’t opportunistically and immodestly grab your surfboards just yet, kids — the wave of economic recovery is likely to crash long before it crests.

Related: Michael Ignatieff: The Harvey Dent of Canadian politics.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers