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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soros, Temasek Buy into Indian Stock Exchanges

Billionaire George Soros' Soros Fund Management is finalizing a deal to buy 4% of Bombay Stock Exchange, one of India's two exchanges, for approximately USD 40 million. The deal might be seen as "merely" symbolic (the amount is relatively small, the share is very far from controlling, etc.) but, in the world of international finance, symbols matter a great deal. This is especially so as recently Singapore's Temasek has bought approximately 5% of India's other major exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India (for USD 145 million). The two moves together indicate something much more significant than just "a sign of confidence in the Bombay Stock Exchange," as suggested by the latter's chief executive, Madhu Kannan.

It is a sign of confidence in India's global economic weight--in historical perspective, likely an issue for the geopolitical entities that have dominated the history of global capitalism for the last two-to-four centuries (western European and north American capital and states).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Offended, the EU Marches Out -- It Seems

The trilateral talks regarding the management of Hungary's budget and overall fiscal woes, involving the government of Hungary, the IMF and the European Union, broke off abruptly on July 17.

Most fascinating about the sudden breakdown is that the three sides can't, or won't, even agree about who walked out and for what reason. The Hungarian government is insinuating, somewhat inconsistently but all the more insistently, that the main fault-line is between itself and the IMF (implying of course that the government--which uses a rhetoric vaguely reminiscent of the Third World revolutionary left of one-to-two generations earlier, only with a neo-conservative content) is "standing up to" the faceless forces of financial imperialism, etc.). The finance/economy minister has claimed that the era of Hungary's "financial independence" is approaching. No journalist asks the question of how that would be possible for a state whose internal market comprises no more than .1% of the world economy, and whose economy is estimated to be more than 75% foreign-owned.

For its part, the IMF appears to deny this and claims that it was a neutral party to the conflict. Were that true, the main clash would have taken place between the Hungarian government
    and the EU
. (The former is of course part of the latter).

Now, that brings us to a very interesting problem--and one that is at the heart of my book :-)--: Just what exactly is the relationship between the "center" of the European Union (commonly referred to as "Brussels") and the member states? Ultimately where is power located? Can the EU actually force the hand of a member state--especially in the case of a state that is not a member of the less-than-fully-common currency, the Euro? Would it try to do so? If it did, just by what means can it do that? If it does not, (i.e., if it refrains from disciplining one of its members, or if it fails to do so), how can the EU continue claiming to be a geopolitical player of a global sway? If it uses harsh methods to do so, what remains of the new claim of "soft power"?

To make things even more entertaining, of course the days of the Hungarian EU-presidency (an agenda-setting authority rotating among the member-states on a semiannual basis) are rapidly approaching.

//For more on the complexity of the relationship between "Brussels" and the member states, see my book, especially Chapter 4.//

cover page of the book

cover page of the book
image used for the cover design by Anannya Dasgupta