Bringing together the best longer Interpreter articles you were too busy to read this week.
The transfer of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to the island where they were to be executed was delayed by the Indonesian Government earlier this week. The stated reason is that the island is undergoing an expansion to handle more prisoners, but it has also emerged that President Jokowi refused the two prisoners clemency without receiving and reviewing the proper documentation, including information on their rehabilitation.
First, David MacRae on the politics in Indonesia surrounding the inmates and their potential executions, as well as how Jokowi has handled the situation:
Jokowi has repeatedly told Indonesians the country faces a drugs crisis, using discredited statistics to claim 50 Indonesians die from narcotics every day. Against this backdrop, Jokowi's 'no mercy for drugs convicts' stance (stated repeatedly in public engagements across the country) and his sharp escalation of Indonesia's use of executions have been a shortcut for him to appear to be a firm leader.
Ironically, Jokowi's tactics resemble nothing so much as the campaign strategy of his defeated presidential rival, authoritarian-era general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo too made liberal use of dodgy numbers during the election campaign to claim Indonesia was under threat of recolonisation as its wealth leaked overseas, then presented his pitch of firm leadership as crucial to saving Indonesia.
Sam Roggeveen also responded to a column published Friday morning by Waleed Aly, in which Aly criticised Prime Minister Tony Abbott's comments this week about Australia's past aid contributions to Indonesia as a 'reminder' of the deep friendship between the two countries. Sam said this:
If Australia takes its objections to capital punishment seriously, why would it be so outrageous to reconsider our aid effort for a country that directly affronts our values? Waleed Aly himself seems to have deep moral misgivings about capital punishment, so why is he so scandalised by the suggestion that Australia could rethink its aid program if Chan and Sukumaran are executed? It would be surprising if the Government is not already getting calls from NGOs and the public to take precisely that action.
Also, the Lowy Institute published a poll this week that canvassed the opinion of Australians on the death penalty:
In a new poll conducted by the Lowy Institute on the weekend, 62% of the Australian adult population say that the executions of the two Australian citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, in Indonesia should not proceed.
Fewer than one in three (31%) Australians say the executions should proceed.
Most Australians also oppose the death penalty for drug trafficking. A substantial majority (69%) of the Australian population believes that in general, the death penalty should not be used as a punishment for drug trafficking. By comparison, only 26% say that the death penalty should apply to drug trafficking.
By 2050, Australia may no longer be in the top 20 economies in the world. But Mike Callaghan reminds us that there is more to it than that:
The first point is that we need to get used to the idea, because it is almost inevitable. Demographics are a major driver behind these projections, along with assumptions around productivity growth. On this latter influence, the projections usually assume that countries will catch up with the technological leader, normally the US. Consequently if it is assumed that developing economies with large and growing populations achieve increased productivity through technological transfers and increased physical and human capital investments, they will record strong growth rates. As noted, whether they achieve this growth will depend on their policy settings….
… The third point is that there is more to economic progress than the size of a country's GDP. Notwithstanding that many emerging economies may be relatively larger by 2050 than advanced economies, average income per head (GDP per capita) will still be significantly higher in advanced economies, including Australia. Moreover, when it comes to the quality of life, a wider range of variables need to be considered. On the UN's Human Development Index, which includes things like life expectancy, literacy, education and GDP per capita, Australia currently ranks second behind Norway, while China is ranked 101, Indonesia 124 and India 134.
The Interpreter also had the first Western media interview with the new Prime Minister of East Timor, Dr Rui Maria de Araújo:
Araújo certainly seems to have all the intellectual skills needed to be a prime minister. The major question is whether he has the political chops to navigate the shoals of Timor-Leste's coalition politics, with all its trade offs, balancing acts and blank check approaches to heading off political problems. A related issue is whether any new prime minister would really relish the prospect of having a predecessor, particularly such a powerful one, sitting at the cabinet table. These are issues for the future. For now, all seems set for Timor-Leste's new leader, who says his new job is an 'honour and a privilege'.
Hugh White replied to a post from Shashank Joshi last week on improving relations between India and the US and what it means for Asia strategically:
India's new alignment with the US will only make a real difference if it is credibly willing to support America militarily against China if and when US primacy is at stake. Diffuse and politically acceptable diplomatic support won't cut it at a time like this. So the test of the US-India alignment is simple: does anyone think India would send forces to help America defend Japan's claim to the Senkakus, or the Philippines' claims in the South China Sea, or Taiwan? If not, how does India's support help America deter China from challenging US primacy in these flashpoints? And if it doesn't do that, what use is it to Obama?
Potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush gave a foreign policy speech at the Chicago Council this week. James Bowen on the differences, if any, between Jeb and his brother:
The problem is, while opting not to raise the spectre of the second President Bush, Jeb didn't do all that much to distance himself from the worldview that gave rise to those grave mistakes. And, in the absence of any substantial critique of George W's decision-making, he risks being seen as too aligned with his brother's political ideology. Indeed, Jeb's talk of 'regaining American leadership' and claiming that this was a mission for which there was 'no reason to apologise' had an eerie familiarity and might have put a little doubt in some voters' minds, or at least some ideas in those of Democratic strategists.
Stephen Grenville wrote a very good and substantial post on Greek debt:
The first of these is that Greece has more official debt than it can ever hope to pay back (175% of GDP). But there is no realistic prospect that this debt can be written off (or even written down to a manageable figure) in the current negotiations. The second basic fact is that all parties to the negotiation would rather Greece continue as part of the euro, because 'Grexit' would be a disruptive mess.
These basic realities should define the logic of the negotiation. First, the repayment should be pushed even further into the future and the interest burden should be trimmed. Second, there has to be a continuation of 'conditionality', the reform requirements that keep Greece's 'feet to the fire'. But this has to be calibrated to the needs of economic growth, not as a punishment for debt recalcitrance.
The Australian Government has made rescinding passports of dual-nationality Australians that have left the country to fight in the Middle East the centrepiece of new national security legislation. Peter Hughes on why this idea would be ineffective:
To deal with the jihadist problem, the Government already has available to it criminal sanctions as well as the ability to withhold or cancel travel documents. So what difference would it make to the jihadist cause if the Australian Government could revoke Australian citizenship for dual nationals?
In practice, it would likely be a very limited tool. There is little or no public information which tells us whether or not the jihadists about whom our security agencies are concerned are dual nationals. If they are not, the proposed change in the law would be irrelevant.
Leon Berkelmans on why currency wars may not be such a bad thing:
How is it then that currency wars have such a bad name? Part of the reason, I think, tends to come from a language that talks of 'debased' currencies. It is easy to get moralistic when things are framed in such a way. There may be another reason. When people think of currency wars they often think of the devaluations that occurred during the Great Depression. In a classic paper on the topic, superstar economists Barry Eichengreen and Jeffrey Sachs concluded that the overall net spillovers in the Depression were in fact negative. Why? Under the prevailing gold standard, when a country devalued it could either suck gold from the rest of the world or release gold to it. If a country sucked in gold, it would impose a monetary tightening on everyone else. But the situation today is different; with no gold standard to tie the hands of the rest of the world, monetary policy can be eased instead.
Vanessa Newby wrote on the domestic situation in Jordan following the murder of pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh by ISIS:
While conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, Jordan is said to be providing support to Jabhat Al-Nusra in the north of Jordan. Also, the latest push by Hizbullah into the southernmost part of Syria is said to be unnerving the Jordanian regime which, whilst OK with the Syrian regime regaining control of the south, is not keen to see the Iran–Hizbullah axis so close to its borders. Conversely, some pro-opposition voices in Jordan have criticised the Government for helping to slow down the progress of the Syrian opposition when it got too close to the Jordanian border.
The Jordanian reaction to ISIS is reflective of the reactions of many the Arab Gulf states which are concurrently courting and suppressing Islamist groups – one assumes in the hope they will escape any blowback if ISIS comes knocking. Jordan, like its Gulf counterparts, will probably continue to provide support to groups like Jahbat al-Nusra in the face of the perceived threat of the Iran–Hizbullah axis while engaging in the campaign against ISIS in the meantime.