Monthly Archives: May 2009

Budget transparency turns murky

So much for the Government’s “Operation Sunshine” that was supposed to make budget program expenditure more transparent and accountable.

On the biggest single program item, Defense—a staggering 2.3% of GDP or $27 billion dollars next year alone—it seems to be a case of re-negging and obscurity.

“As the first budget after a new Defence White Paper, there is a glaring absence of substantive information on funding, investment and reform. The best that can be said is that the budget is consistent with a White Paper that’s silent on when anything will occur or what things will cost. All we are offered is a vision of what the defence force will look like in 2030.” Extract from Australian Strategic Policy Institute

The ASPI’s chief analyst has described the Budget papers as “deliberately vague”.

Two tracks out of the Doha wasteland?

Pascal Lamy wants to stir up more action in the WTO’s Doha negotiations —at least its appearance—by opening up a ‘second front’ for the exchanges. One group will battle on to refine the technical rules and one will start a ‘show and tell’ exploration of the implementation of the rules.

“My own sense is that there is scope to work on these two areas along two simultaneous tracks. One would see technical engagement in the negotiating groups move to a higher gear to cover a number of technical issues as mentioned previously. Simultaneously, Members would start some sort of ‘outcome testing’, through bilateral or plurilateral discussions, where they would provide each other with greater clarity on the use of flexibilities and through it, on the value of the deal.” Extract from Lamy’s address to the WTO General Council meeting

But if the problem is that a large number of countries are reluctant to engage at all, how will widening the front lead to an earlier outcome?

U.S. breaks G-20 promise on trade

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Just to remind you of what they said in April:

“We reaffirm the commitment made in Washington not to raise new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, including within existing WTO limits, not to impose new trade restrictions, and not to create new subsidies to exports.” G-20 Communiqué emphasis added

By any measure the re-introduction of an export subsidy for the coddled U.S. dairyfarmer is a new subsidy, even if within the terms of the 1994 WTO agreement on subsidy ceilings (cooked-up by the USA and EC in 1992). It’s outrageous and damaging. But foreseeable.

“The US Agriculture Department said it will subsidise about 92,000 tonnes of dairy products headed for the world market. A spokeswoman said the subsidies would help US farmers hit by plunging international prices and trade volumes and was the first time in five years the program would be used.” Extract from The Age

Risk and liberty

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Interesting new book “What Price Liberty” from UK academic, Ben Wilson. You can download the book from the publishers (Faber & Faber) from now until 4 June for whatever price you think it’s worth.

Nowadays states regard the individual as a potential troublemaker, a selfish economic actor who puts personal gain first: a risk in other words.

Plimer review: more from G Schmidt

Dr Gavin Schmidt has further criticisms of my review of Plimer (and of Plimer’s book). I’m happy to reproduce them as emailed (presuming again that he has no objection). He has three main points concerning the Wegman ‘cluster’ analysis of the Mann authorial relationships; whether the Hockey Stick article was a ‘fraud’, and; whether Plimer’s account of paleo-climate variability matters to current concerns.

U.S. and Global Temperatures: a correction

Corrected GISS record shows 1934 as the hottest year

Dr Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA and a principal author of the Real Climate weblog, has emailed me to point out an error (mine) in my review of Ian Plimer’s Heaven + Earth.

I said that I had learned from Ian Plimer that NASA had reversed it’s claim that the ten years following 1995 were the hottest ten years of the century when Steven McIntyre showed that the record belonged to 1934. But, as Dr Schmidt points out, 1934 was the hottest year in the GISS records only for the United States, not in the global GISS records. He goes on to accuse Prof. Plimer of ‘lying’ to his readers about this, and other, matters.

I am grateful to Dr Schmidt for pointing out this error, which I have corrected. But I still share Ian Plimer’s amply-documented conclusion that there is no reason for alarm about the slight warming that undoubtedly took place over a fifty year period from the 1940s.

Scary pictures of a deep recession

Fall in employment (USA) this recession and 1981 Fall in output (USA) this recession and 1981

From the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis, these charts comparing output and employment trends in this recession compared with all post-war recessions in the United States. No sign of bottom here.

The charts are interactive. You can pick your own poison, if you follow the link.