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Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

Asia Has Most Billionaires Of Any Continent, According To Hurun Survey

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 26, 2013

A Chinese wealth survey has found that Asia has more billionaires than any other continent, apparently surpassing North America for the first time.

China’s super-rich make their billions predominantly from real estate, manufacturing and investments, the report said. Photo: EPA
AFP

Asia has more billionaires than any other continent, followed by North America and Europe, according to a survey by a China-based wealth magazine released on Thursday.

There were 1,453 people around the world with a personal wealth of $1 billion or more as of January, said the Hurun Report, a luxury magazine publisher that compiled the list.

Asia had 608 billionaires, North America 440 and Europe 324, it said in a statement.

Among individual countries, the United States and China dominated with 408 and 317 citizens respectively on the list, followed by Russia, Germany and India.

Mexican telecoms czar Carlos Slim, 73, was ranked as the “Richest Man on the Planet” with a personal fortune of $66 billion. Slim also topped the Forbes magazine annual global rich list last year. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Myth of Chinese Efficiency

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 3, 2012

image: Pedestrians stand before heavy traffic at an intersection in Beijing. The US embassy which has its own pollution measuring system, and which rates anything over 150 as unhealthy, was showing an index of 403, or 'hazardous' on this particular day.

ED JONES / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Pedestrians stand before heavy traffic at an intersection in Beijing. The US embassy which has its own pollution measuring system, and which rates anything over 150 as unhealthy, was showing an index of 403, or ‘hazardous’ on this particular day.

Many people in the U.S. and Europe believe China is a model of modern transport and political effectiveness. They should try to live here.

On the road to Beijing’s international airport the other day, I noticed dark clouds moving in on the horizon. My stress level immediately spiked. Flight delays have become almost the norm here in Beijing, even on the brightest of days; a little rain would certainly spell trouble. As the drops began to splat on the windshield, I had dispiriting visions of getting stuck in Beijing and missing my connecting flight in Hong Kong — and my next deadline for TIME with it. My fears were confirmed when I arrived at the gate, where the departure time came and went. Though the sun had peeked through the clouds, the damage had already been done. Read the rest of this entry »

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Educating the World – No More Excuses

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 29, 2012

By Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; UN Special Envoy for Global Education

This September, five and six year olds in the western world have enjoyed their first day at school. In the developing world, however, a total of 61 million school-age girls and boys around the world will not go to primary school at all.

While if you visited the classrooms of New York, London or Paris you would find happy young children beginning their educational journey, if you visit the mining regions of Mali, West Africa, you’ll find children as young as 10 working in tunnels 30 meters underground. Visit the cocoa growing areas of neighboring Côte d’Ivoire and you’ll see young boys of primary school age working with machetes.

This tragic picture of child labor repeats itself across the developing world: new figures show that 91 million girls and boys are currently engaged in child labor. On current trends, there will be as many as 170 million child laborers in 2020, who, instead of acquiring the basic literacy and numeracy skills that we in the western world often take for granted, are engaged in grueling and often dangerous work.

In Africa alone, the number of children aged between five and 14 involved in child labor is projected to increase by some 19 million. Growing numbers of children forced into the workplace, and so denied the opportunity to prosper in the classroom. This endless cycle of poverty begetting poverty through lack of opportunity is ready to repeat itself if nothing is done.

Contrast this with the western world, where education has taken its rightful place amongst the priorities of government, with centuries of investment in teaching and infrastructure. In ten years’ time, 800 million of the world’s citizens, primarily in wealthy countries, are set to have university degrees. Read the rest of this entry »

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What If Rich Countries Shut the Door on Immigration?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 21, 2012

They would start to look like North Korea, says an Oxford professor
image: An Italian coastguard boat carrying migrants of an undetermined nationality sails into the island port in Lampedusa, Italy, Aug. 24, 2011.

TULLIO M. PUGLIA / GETTY IMAGES
An Italian coast-guard boat carrying migrants of an undetermined nationality heads to the island port in Lampedusa, Italy, on Aug. 24, 2011

This is a “what if” interview from the World Economic Forum’s Risk Response Network. To view the rest of the series, click here.

Amid a global recession, catastrophic rates of unemployment in developed countries and a rising tide of xenophobia, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with TIME, speaks with Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School and a professor of globalization and development at the University of Oxford, about the likelihood of anti-immigrant policies coming to the fore. Goldin warns that such policies would not only harm communities the world over, but be counterproductive.

Are we in the throes of a global backlash against immigration?
We’re seeing an increasing focus on immigration in response to the severe economic crisis, rising unemployment and falling living standards. As has happened throughout history, there’s a tendency to blame immigrants for these problems. Politically, it’s an easy option, but it’s never worked out too well as a strategy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Defying Gravity: Is Asia’s Economic Miracle About to Stall?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 5, 2012

Even in Asia, where gains in wealth have been unparalleled, policymakers are finding it harder and harder to improve the welfare of the common man.
Nelson Ching / Bloomberg via Getty Images

NELSON CHING / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
Pedestrians cross an intersection during the morning commute in the central business district of Beijing, China, on May 28, 2012

As the West struggles to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, it is only natural that many have looked to Asia with envy. While Americans contend with a housing bust and joblessness, and Europeans suffer through their debt crisis, much of Asia (except Japan) seems to gain economic power, wealth and competitiveness year after year. The East looks like it is eating the West’s lunch.

Much of that storyline is true. The rise of Asia is the single most important economic trend of the past half century. But at the same time, looks can be deceiving. Asia has its own share of economic troubles, which threaten to derail its heralded economic miracle.

(MORE: China’s Economic Slowdown: Why Stimulus Is a Bad Idea)

We can see that in the current slowdown in the region. Despite Asia’s burgeoning wealth, its economies are still to a great degree dependent on the advanced economies of the West, and as the recovery there sags, so have Asian exports, manufacturing output and GDP growth. China is likely to post its worst economic performance in 13 years in 2012. South Korea notched its slowest growth rate in nearly three years in the second quarter. Growth in India has fallen precipitously as well. The IMF predicts the economies of developing Asia will expand by 7.1% in 2012 – not bad, of course, but a sharp drop from the 9.7% recorded in 2010. Clearly, there is a limit to how much Asia can defy the gravity of the global economy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nepal’s Crisis: Can a Broken Nation Remake Itself?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 7, 2012

After a decade of war and nearly half a decade of political dysfunction, the impoverished Himalayan nation is struggling to refashion itself as a secular, pluralistic republic. Political bickering and factionalism is getting in the way.
Prakash Mathema / AFP / Getty Images
PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Nepalese student activists shout slogans during a protest demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in Kathmandu on June 17, 2012. The Himalayan nation plunged into political crisis after the constituent assembly was disbanded having failed to agree on a new constitution.

Not long ago, a gleaming white edifice in the Baneshwor neighborhood of Kathmandu evoked hope and optimism. The Chinese-built hall for Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, a 601-member body tasked with writing a constitution for the fledgling republic, was supposed to be the site of the country’s remaking after a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006.

Instead, after yet another deadline for Nepal’s feuding lawmakers to draft a new constitution passed on May 27, the area has taken on a worn, deserted look. Gone are the thousands of protesters who converged here; so too, the hordes of security forces in riot gear. An eerie silence pervades life in Kathmandu, a capital city that has grown accustomed to political deadlock and dysfunction.

Nepal’s uneasy calm hides crises that are deepening every day. The major dispute centers around how this country of 26.6 million will be reshaped. That question has remained unanswered since the peace process began under U.N. auspices six years ago, marking the end of a nearly three-century-old Hindu monarchy and the awkward beginnings of a secular republic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why India Is Still One of the Most Dangerous Places to Give Birth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 10, 2012

India’s economy may be booming, but when it comes to providing adequate health care to pregnant women, the country is falling behind even its poorer neighbors.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP / Getty Images

ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
A new born baby sleeps in the arms of her mother at a Community Health Center in Mall, near the central east Indian city of Lucknow on October 31, 2011.

In March, Preeti Singh almost died giving birth. The 22-year-old resident of a village about a half hour’s drive from New Delhi was pregnant with twins and planned to give birth with the help of an untrained midwife. When things went wrong during the delivery, she rushed to three government hospitals in search of help before her family decided to take out a loan for $1,000 to send her to a private hospital. Preeti and one of the twins survived. “Giving birth is not easy,” she said. “But maybe if I was taken to a hospital to give birth or a competent dai (midwife) was there, it would not have been so traumatic and my other child would have been saved.”

Indeed, with basic maternity care, many lives in India would be saved. According to a 2010 study by the Harvard School of Public Health, 150,000 deaths could be prevented by 2015 if Indian women had access to better family planning and health care during their pregnancies and deliveries. But that medical help has yet to arrive. A new report by Save the Children suggests that, despite India’s booming economy, the country is still one of the most high-risk places in the world to give birth. It ranked India as the fourth-worst country among 80 less-developed nations in its survey, with nearly half of all births taking place without a trained health professional. “Even though India has made efforts to improve maternal health by encouraging institutional deliveries and taking other measures,” says Thomas Chandy, the head of Save the Children India, “the benefits have not yet appeared to bring about a shift.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Does India Want to Be a Part of America’s Plan for Asia?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 9, 2012

The U.S. Secretary of Defense swung through New Delhi on his eight-day visit to Asia to encourage Indian leaders to help the U.S. with its military and strategic goals in the region
image: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta walks to lay a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi during a visit on June 6, 2012.

JIM WATSON / POOL VIA REUTERS
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta walks to lay a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi during a visit on June 6, 2012

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrapped up a short visit to India this week, calling for Washington and New Delhi to deepen security ties and defense cooperation in the region. As NATO-led troops get ready to leave Afghanistan and the Obama Administration continues its effort to counterbalance China’s growing military heft, Panetta’s goal was to shore up India’s support in the region during his meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defense Minister A.K. Antony, among others.

In a speech on Wednesday at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, an Indian defense think tank, Panetta urged India to help Afghanistan during and after NATO’s exit by supporting its neighbor through trade and investment, reconstruction and help for Afghan security forces. “We both realize how important it is to ultimately have a stable Afghanistan if we are to have peace and prosperity in this region,” he said. To achieve that, Panetta said both India and the U.S. “will need to continue to engage Pakistan, overcoming our respective and often deep differences.” He applauded India’s recent progress in boosting trade ties with its neighbor as being key to “helping Pakistan turn around its economy and counter extremism within its borders.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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China’s Antiquated Financial System: The Creaking Grows Louder

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 6, 2012

Nelson Ching / Bloomberg via Getty Images

NELSON CHING / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
Pedestrians walk past the People’s Bank of China in Beijing, China, Dec. 23, 2011.

In April, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao took aim at China’s powerful state-owned banks. According to Reuters, he said at a discussion with local businesses: “Frankly, our banks make profits far too easily. Why? Because a small number of major banks occupy a monopoly position, meaning one can only go to them for loans and capital. That’s why right now, as we’re dealing with the issue of getting private capital into the finance sector, essentially, that means we have to break up their monopoly.”

Wen’s attack on China’s big banks, followed two weeks later by the Chinese central bank’s move to widen the renminbi-to-dollar trading range from 0.5% to 1%, raises the question of whether China is about to accelerate bank and financial system reforms. Against the backdrop of the spectacular fall of Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, who upheld the heavy hand of the state-owned enterprises in the economy, and the dramatic escape of political prisoner Chen Guangcheng, are liberal reformers now gaining momentum as China undergoes its next leadership transition this fall?

Experts say further financial liberalization is in the cards, as both domestic and external pressures mount. “The fall of Bo Xilai pushes up reform forces in the Chinese party, government and society, and that’s a good sign,” says Hoest Loechel, professor at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany and a visiting professor at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. Pieter Bottelier, senior adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and former World Bank chief of resident mission in Beijing, predicts: “Liberalization of bank interest rates could come very soon, by the end of the year, linked to further internationalization of the renminbi (RMB).” He notes that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) says the time is right for China to open its capital account in phases, starting over the next three years, transitioning to full financial liberalization in five to 10 years.

(MORE: China’s Yesterday’s News. Who are the Next High-growth Superstars?) Read the rest of this entry »

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‘This is not about China’: US to move majority of warships to Asia-Pacific

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 3, 2012

US fighters taking off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class USS George Washington for joint military exercises between the US and South Korea in South Korea's East Sea. (AFP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

US fighters taking off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class USS George Washington for joint military exercises between the US and South Korea in South Korea’s East Sea. (AFP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

The US is set to reposition its Navy fleet with the majority of its warships to be assigned to the Asia-Pacific by 2020. But this military strategy has nothing to do with US-Chinese rivalry in the region, the defense secretary assures.

The US would reposition its Navy so that 60 per cent of its warships would be assigned to the Asia-Pacificregion by 2020, compared to about 50 per cent now, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told senior civilian and military leaders from about 30 Asia-Pacific nations at an annual security forum in Singapore.

“Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China. I reject that view entirely,” he said. “Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible… with the development and growth of China. Indeed, increased US involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future.”

But in laying out core US principles in the region, Panetta made clear Washington opposed any attempt by Beijing to make unilateral moves in its push for territorial rights in the oil-rich South China Sea.

Panetta’s comments came at the start of a seven-day visit to the region to prove to its Asian allies that it intends to remain a crucial military and economic power in the region to counterbalance China’s growing influence.

The trip includes stops in Vietnam and India, and comes at a time of renewed tensions over competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, with the Philippines, a major US ally, and China in a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal near the Filipino coast.

The US aims to reassure its allies that Washington would act to counterbalance China’s growing influence on the South China Sea as part of its foreign policy known as the “pivot to Asia”.  Panetta said the US will be committed to alliances instead of new permanent bases and mentioned treaties with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia as well as partnerships with India, Singapore, Indonesia and others.

Panetta also said Washington also would work to increase the number and size of bilateral and multilateral military training exercises it conducts in Asia-Pacific. Officials said last year the US carried out 172 such joint drills in the region. Read the rest of this entry »

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For China, Economic Growth Doesn’t Always Equal Happiness

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 16, 2012

CHINA PHOTOS / GETTY IMAGES
A woman washes clothes next to a railway near a shanty town in Shenyang, China

When Bo Xilai, the rising Chinese Communist Party official who was purged in March, gave his last public comments before disappearing into detention, he was wrong about a lot of things. That bit about not being under investigation, for instance. But one line he uttered has the clear ring of truth, and it poses a serious issue for China’s leadership as it attempts to navigate this year’s political transition, the economic slowdown and the ripples loosed by Bo’s removal. Bo revealed that China’s Gini coefficient — a statistic that measures the gap between rich and poor — had entered into worrying territory. He described the number, which hasn’t been made public in over a decade, as over 0.46. Anything higher than 0.4 is considered dangerously high and capable of fueling unrest.

In Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party secretary for 4½ years, he made building economic protections like subsidized housing for the megacity’s poorest residents one of the tenets of his “Chongqing model.” The wholesale corruption he and his family have been accused of may have steered the wealth gap in the wrong direction, but Bo understood the political importance of appearing to care about the problem, just as he knew the appeal of cracking down on crime and reviving Mao-era culture.

It’s a point that many other officials seem to have missed, mindful perhaps of Deng Xiaoping’s declaration that “some will get rich first,” but forgetting the coda that their prosperity would then spread to all. China’s growth in recent decades has been astonishing and surveys like the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project have found high levels of satisfaction and optimism in China. But there is more to those numbers. A deeper examination of Chinese citizens’ levels of satisfaction indicates that while the country’s richest are increasingly content, the poor are growing more and more unhappy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Pakistan and India’s Back-to-Back Missile Tests Spoil the Mood?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 26, 2012

Reuters

REUTERS
A Hatf-VI (Shaheen-II) missile with a range of 2,000 km (1,242 miles) takes off during a test flight from an undisclosed location in Pakistan, April 21, 2008.

Another nation decided to flex its ballistic muscle this week in what is shaping up to be a missile-happy month in Asia. On Wednesday, Pakistan announced it had successfully launched what it called an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the Indian Ocean, just days after India conducted a similar test launch of its long-range missile, the Agni-V. Like that weapon, Pakistan’s Hatf IV Shaheen IA is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and is part of Islamabad’s ongoing strategy of deterrence in the region.

Islamabad gave New Delhi due warning that it would be testing the new missile this week, as did New Delhi before its test of the Agni-V, in accordance with a 2005 agreement that the neighbors would notify each other before missile tests. Like India, Pakistan has been developing an indigenous missile program since the 1980s, but analysts have questioned the the veracity of some of Islamabad’s claims about its military’s homegrown technological achievements in the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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Buried Treasure: World War II Spitfires to Be Unearthed in Burma

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 23, 2012

Paging Indiana Jones: a British farmer’s 15-year quest to find a squadron of legendary fighter planes buried in a far-off land has finally paid off
Michael Dunning/Getty Images

MICHAEL DUNNING/GETTY IMAGES
Spitfire aircraft in flight

It’s like something out of an Indiana Jones film, if you take away the religious overtones and ophidiophobic adventurer. After 15 years, a British farmer’s quest to find a squadron of legendary fighter planes lost in Burma during World War II has finally paid off.

Lincolnshire farmer David Cundall, 62, has spent about $207,000, traveled to Burma a dozen times and negotiated with the cagey Burmese government, all in the hopes of finding a stash of iconic British Spitfires buried somewhere in the Southeast Asian country.

(PHOTOS: Burma’s Landmark Elections and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Path to Victory)

Buried planes? It sounds odd, but in fact this was fairly common toward the end of the war; as the conflict wound down and jet aircraft promised to make propeller-driven fighters obsolete, many aircraft were scrapped, buried or sunk by Allied Forces in order to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

(PHOTOS: Europe Then and Now)

Cundall started his search after his friend heard from a group of U.S. veterans that they had stashed Spitfires in the region. “We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires,” the veterans said. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fall of Bo Xilai and the Future of Chinese Growth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 29, 2012

MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

MARK RALSTON / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Bo Xilai, the charismatic but controversial Communist Party leader of China’s Chongqing municipality, was removed from his post.

The fall of Bo Xilai, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party in the sprawling mid-Western city of Chongqing, is the stuff of movies.  A member of the party elite and supposed corruption fighter who was seen to have brought order to a Blade Runner-esque sprawl with a population the size of Belgium, Bo was not only poised to enter the top rungs of the Politburo this year, he was the first Chinese celebrity politician since Deng and Mao. In a country where the Party likes to speak with one voice, and tall poppies are often cut down, he stood out. He dressed well; he cultivated the media; he had his own one page Comment and Analysis piece in the Financial Times.

But in March, he was abruptly dismissed as the Party head of Chongqing, after his police chief, Wang Lijun, sought asylum in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, a city several hours northwest of Chongqing. Wang had provided evidence of crimes allegedly involving Bo, according to reports in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, including murders carried out on his order. Wang also claimed that a dead British businessman, Neil Heywood, who was said to be close to Bo’s wife Gu Kailai, had been in a business dispute with her, and had been poisoned. Rather than being a tough-but-honest politician fighting corruption in China’s Wild West, a very different picture of Bo began to emerge — one of a man who his critics say was an entitled “princeling” (his father was Bo Yibo, a revolutionary general who had fought alongside Chairman Mao), and who was corrupt himself; someone willing to torture, frame, and even murder anyone who got in his way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can Asian-Style Capitalism Save the West?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 26, 2012

Getty Images

GETTY IMAGES

As you can imagine, the people out in Asia are feeling pretty good about themselves these days. And why shouldn’t they? While the U.S. and Europe struggle with debt, unemployment and sagging competitiveness, most of Asia seems to jump from strength to strength, its economies powering through the downturn with apparent ease, its companies becoming more and more prominent on the world stage. So it’s no wonder that many Asians have come to believe that their economic systems are superior to those of the U.S. and Europe — and that policymakers in Washington, London and Berlin should finally sit up and pay attention. For decades, Asia had been schooled in the wonders of free capitalism by the West, and benefited tremendously. Now, many out there believe, the time has come for the West to learn from Asia.

Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, made this argument outright in a recent blog post on the Financial Times website, in which he argued that Asian-style capitalism is the solution to the West’s woes:

The time may have come for Asians to reciprocate the generosity of the west in sharing capitalism with Asia. Western policymakers and thought leaders should be invited to visit the industrial complexes and service industries of Japan and Korea, Taiwan and China, Hong Kong and Singapore. There may be a few valuable lessons to be learnt.

What are those lessons? Can they really turn around the economic fortunes of the West? Despite Mahbubani’s confidence, those questions are not so easy to answer.

(MORE: Are China’s Big State Companies a Big Problem for the Global Economy?) Read the rest of this entry »

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