Article first published as West Relinquishes Mubarak! on Blogcritics.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years with full backing from all western countries from the US to the EU, appears losing confidence of his western mentors. The clashes, which erupted on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, have brought in the US and the European Union in support of the agitating anti-government demonstrators. The western states have condemned the violence forced by the pro-government demonstrators prompting Egyptian Prime Minister to offer apology on behalf of the government. The Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has apologized for stone pelting and gun shots on peaceful demonstrators pledging to investigate the “fatal error.”
The protests that have been peaceful for Nine days in Cairo and Alexandria, have turned violent as thousands of pro-government protesters stepped in throwing stones on anti-government protesters on Wednesday evening. Anti-government protesters have also begun stone pelting and chasing them from the Tahrir Square in a bid to retain the control of the square that has been the main rallying point of the protesters. Meanwhile Muslim Brotherhood and ElBaradei faction denied sitting for talks saying Mubarak’s resignation is the only solution.
The US expressed shock over clashes and the leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain released a joint statement condemning the violence and declaring that the peaceful political transition should immediately be started. Hosni Mubarak could remain in power for 30 years only with the political, economic and military support of the western countries lead by the US.
A study commissioned by the UK government called for urgent attention into food security to avert global hunger. The Foresight Report on Food and Farming Futures said the current system had to be redesigned to address to end global hunger immediately. The study involved 400 experts from 35 countries, BBC reported. The study provides compelling evidence for the governments to act now.
The report stressed changes to farming were required in order to see that the increasing yields might not disturb sustainability of the agriculture sector. It recommended curbing of the resource-intensive food types and minimizing waste in food production. In next 20 years, the world population will reach 8.3 billion and 65-70 percent of the population will be living in urban areas. Increasing prosperity and population will increase food consumption, the report said.
China offered to take concerted action to help financial stability of Europe, the countries of which are haunted by sovereign debt crisis since the beginning of 2010. European officials informed that Chinese vice premiere Wang Qishan gave assurances that China was ready to support European efforts for stabilisation, while speaking to the annual China-EU High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue on Tuesday, December 21, as per FT report.
Chinese spokesperson Jiang Yu is today quoted by BBC News as reiterating Chinese vice premiere’s pledge to support the EU to overcome debt crisis. China’s support majorly stems from bond purchases though it did not give specific details of its support. China has been buying bonds of most indebted countries of the Eurozone such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Many analysts are forecasting that Portugal may be the next Eurozone country to tap Eurozone stability fund. Spain’s debt costs are also on rise, prompting speculations over Spain’s ability to raise further bond funds.
China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Greece in October. He promised to Greece that China would buy Greece bonds and increase their investments in Greece. Similarly, China’s President Hu Jintao toured Portugal in November. During his trip, he said China would take concrete measures to support Portugal that included bond purchases.
The reason for China’s enthusiasm to support EU’s financial stability is obvious. The EU is China’s largest trading partner. Two-way trade between China and the EU in first eleven months of this year stood at $434 billion and that is why Beijing is interested in regional stability. However, bond costs continued to rise during last three months even though China bought public debts of Greece and Portugal. Therefore, it is doubtful that China’s support to Eurozone would be transformed into the fiscal stability of Eurozone and the EU as a whole.
As part of wider austerity measures to reduce budget deficit, Italian government proposed education reforms the bill on which is introduced in Senate on November 22. Thousands of students opposing the reforms took to streets in several cities of Italy. Analysts say the Italy’s education sector is already under-funded. The education minister aims to save 9 billion Euros by cutting spending on public education system.
Because of reforms, the number of university courses would be cut down, some smaller universities would be merged, funding for grants would be reduced, the role of the private sector would be encouraged and the duration of rectorships would be limited. Private friendly media continued to support reforms attempting to reduce the scale of opposition to reform measures. The BBC reporter said Italy’s aging professors and teachers possessed excessive powers.
The spending cuts in education will lead to loss of nearly 130,000 jobs in education sector. Irony is that Italy spends less than 5 percent of its GDP for education, which is less than many developed countries.
A British High Court denied claims for a public inquiry by more than 200 Iraqi civilians. The Iraqis demanded public inquiry into the mistreatment by British troops in Iraq. They alleged that the British troops subjected them to sexual, physical and psychological abuse when they were arrested for allegedly having links to militants. The lawyer for the Iraqis said the victims were bitterly disappointed with the verdict.
Two judges upheld Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s refusal to order a wide-ranging investigation, but said one could be "required in due course". Mr Fox contended that the abuse was not systemic and was only carried out by a few bad apples. The Ministry of Defence has set up a dedicated Iraq historic allegations team to look into claims of abuse by British soldiers.
The lead claimant, Ali Zaki Mousa, alleges he endured months of beatings and other abuse in the custody of British soldiers in 2006-07. He told the BBC World Service in 2006-07 he had been blindfolded and beaten by UK troops after being arrested in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on suspicion of being affiliated with militias.
British government has planned to meet bank bosses in a bid to scale down bonuses payable to bank executives for Christmas. The meeting planned on Monday is not happening, as the ministers are away and not able to reach London in time due to unprecedented cold weather.
Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable hope executives would agree to pay less themselves and lend more. It is not clear what action will follow if bankers reject government’s proposals. Mr Cable said the action would be robust but did not specify any action. The prime minister and the chancellor have emphasised the importance of banking to the British economy amid threats that some institutions could move their operations overseas.
The Labour government had passed legislation, backed by the Tories and Lib Dems, forcing banks to disclose bonuses of more than £1m but the coalition had so far refused to implement it. Labour criticized the government is not serious and the meeting is just a hot air to save their faces in the background of student strikes against tuition fee hike. Labour said their temporary tax on bonuses raised 3.5 billion pounds and there was large potential to tax bank bonuses for covering fiscal deficit.
The European Central Bank expressed concerns that Irish bail out would affect Ireland’s ability to provide further funding to Eurozone members. The ECB is of the view that Ireland lacks quality collateral for bail out loans in case Ireland fails to pay back those loans.
On Friday, credit rating agency Moody’s cut sharply the Republic’s debt rating reducing it by five notches. Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a three-year loan of 22.5bn euros for the Republic. The funds form the first part of the IMF’s contribution to the EU and IMF rescue package. The Irish government has passed a series of spending cuts and tax rises totalling 15bn euros as a condition of the bailout.