Sunday, September 25, 2005

The achievements of George Bush

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George Bush is by no means the least popular president in US history. Strangely the President is very popular
in his own country, but not so outside it. His popularity stems from:

  1. Communicating a simple message which evokes the shared Christian values of the electorate
  2. Values-driven: The President has steadfastily dealt with issues that other presidents would often walk away from.
  3. Leadership: He has been able to lead on a number of issues. eg. Free trade, third world debt relief, anti-terrorism
His unpopularity stems from several issues:

  1. Mismanagement of political crisis and natural disasters reflected poorly on him as leader - or at least on his capacity to delegate effectively. eg. Hurricane Katrina & the Iraqi War
  2. Lack of strategic direction - There did not seem to be a strategy in place for Hurricane Katrina or the Iraqi War
  3. Financial mismanagement: Under George Bush the US public and private debt burden has blown out

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the US administration under President George Bush Jr will be his efforts to:

  1. End the debt spiral for 28 of the poorest global economies
  2. Fighting terrorism
  3. Contributing to the freeing up of trade - this remains work in progress

Some of the credit for this progress - primarily the free trade agenda - should go to the media, whose journalists have supported this. They have been better advocates of complex intellectuals more so than Bush, who hasd fumbled in his message.

Third World Debt Spiral

The US government is urging the G8 Group of Nations to carry 70.2% of the debt relief program that would remove the $US42.5 billion debt from the world’s 38 most heavily-indebted countries. Most of the debtors are located in Africa, with their debts owed to the World Bank and other agencies. This is an important issue because debt repayments are a considerable annual burden on these countries. It seems likely that these governments will need to adopt some conditions if these debts are to disappear. Research??

Trade Reform
Bush has made a pledge to abolish tariff and farm subsidies that distort international trade, but only if other rich nations join him. France is likely to reject the ‘opportunity’. Bush has argued that terrorists have fed on the anger & resentment towards the West for preserving such policies. But really there is more to it than that. The WTO Accord reached in late 2001 achieved trade liberalisation, but the agreement exempted agriculture to ensure a consensus would be reached. While the US is trying to get Japan & the EU to join his pledge, the Bush administration has opposed sugar imports and retained subsidies. The WTO also ruled that its cotton programs cited by Brazil breached guidelines. Regardless a lot of US grain farmers are already successfully competing in global markets.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, John Howard has done more to progress global free trade, since Australia has liberalised markets in key markets which will prove the viability of opening trade without decimating farming sectors. This progress will provide the evidence for other countries to go further. Australia has reached FTAs with Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA, and is working on similar agreements with Japan and China. Australia of course has the benefit of being a small market, offers disease-free agricultural product markets and less competitiveness than the Third World liberalisation. These FTAs could then be a precursor for more or less free trade.

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Reason is the standard for debate.

- Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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