Countries & Areas to watch in 2023:
Common Issues (worldwide):
Below are three videos discussing the migrant crisis:
On November 3, 2020, the USA held its presidential election: voters were asked to choose between the incumbent Republican president, Donald Trump, or the candidate running for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden. Biden won and has been serving as America’s 46th president since January 20, 2021 (along with Kamala Harris, Vice-President).
Beginning in the early 1980‘s, American businesses started having their products produced overseas (primarily China) for a fraction of the US production cost. These goods (many of which were sub-standard in quality) were then shipped back into the USA to be resold at full retail prices. For example, if a pair of men’s shoes could be produced in a Chinese factory for $10, it was then resold in the USA for $100. Such a system has benefited American businesses (at the expense of American workers and consumers) and the Chinese economy (i.e. it enriches the factory owners, officers within the Red Army, and Chinese Communist Party officials who work in partnership with the business community). China has grown rich and powerful thanks in part to businessmen and businesswomen from many first-world countries, primarily the USA.
Possible Courses of Action:
Possible Courses of Actions:
Background: In 2017, there was an estimated 10.5 million illegal immigrants living in the USA: 62% overstayed their visa and 38% have crossed the border illegally. Former President Donald Trump threatened to have mass deportations, but that was easier said than done. By 2022, that number has increased to 12 million illegal immigrants.
Possible Courses of Action:
In October 2021 the rate of inflation in America hit a 30-year high of 6.2%. A year earlier, it was only 1.37%. Then, in February 2022, the US rate of inflation hit 7.9%, a 40-year high (even before the price of oil went up due to the war in Europe). Americans are paying more for heating fuel, food, rent, gasoline, cars and every other necessity. Inflation is hitting the poor and the middle class the hardest. Yet in the midst of such misfortune, Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, and President Joe Biden are downplaying the problem. The Federal Reserve has intentionally kept interest rates (the cost of borrowing) near zero for the past several years. Such a policy is unrealistic, as everything has a cost. This deliberate government intervention (which has primarily benefitted the business community) is now fueling inflation with no end in sight. At the same time consumers and businesses as well as governments are taking on massive amounts of debt.
Jerome Powell believes that the higher interest rates are caused by disruptions in the global supply chain. This belief, however, does not explain why some cities are experiencing huge increases in real estate costs, sometimes as much as 18% in one month. Consumers are being lured into paying higher costs with the promise of cheap mortgage interest rates. Many of these consumers are even getting into bidding wars as they take on massive debt. Higher real estate costs in turn are increasing rental costs which is pushing more Americans into homelessness. The average American’s dream of owning one’s own home (at a reasonable cost) is now farther away than ever before!
Under tremendous pressure to take America’s inflation problem serious, the Federal Reserve in March 2022 started to raise interest rates. It raised them by a mere 0.25% up to about 0.33%. This rate increase was widely perceived as a token insignificant amount, the first increase in interest rates since 2018. Some American economists began publicly denouncing the Federal Reserve and warning that interest rates may need to go as high as 18% in order to stop the inflationary spiral currently engulfing America. No doubt many American economists are looking at Turkey’s inflationary issues and wondering whether the USA will experience the same problem. Bowing to pressure (and economic reality) the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates 10 times in a one-year period with interest rates now topping 5% as of May 2023. Hopefully this will slow down the rate of inflation. Otherwise, the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates even further.
Possible Course of Action: Request the President of the USA to consider replacing members of the Federal Reserve who are not serious in fighting inflation. Interest rates need to go up to a realistic level (traditionally the rate has been around 5%) and remain at that rate, or go higher, if necessary.
US President Joe Biden and former US President Donald Trump have one thing in common: they are old. Biden is 80 years old and Trump is 76 years old. Wisdom may come with age, but so do health challenges. Biden appears to be mentally confused at times, possibly the early signs of Alzheimer’s and Trump’s paranoia is getting worse. American media has repeatedly stated that Biden seems to be totally oblivious to major events that threaten the security of the USA, for example, the millions of illegal migrants entering the USA. Someone may have to drive Biden (and Kamala Harris, his Vice President) to the southern border with Mexico so that they can see for themselves that there is an actual crisis that needs to be dealt with.
The Democratic Party needs new, younger leadership. Some excellent potential candidates that could represent the party in the upcoming 2024 presidential election (and possibly win) are:
Donald Trump wants to run in the next presidential election representing the Republican Party. As President, he came up with some excellent ideas such as “Make America Great Again,” promoting US products (rather than those from Communist China). Unfortunately, his style of leadership was erratic and he was not able to accomplish much. The Republican Party has some excellent potential candidates that could lead the party to victory in 2024. Some of these possible contenders are:
The problems facing America are complex and at times overwhelming: everything from out-of-control illegal immigration to escalating gun violence. America has some amazing politicians that could steer the country in the right direction. New leadership is needed so that America can move forward. Step one in making that a reality is to stop supporting the status quo and retire both Biden and Trump! Time for a change, America! Both the Democratic and Republican Parties need to toss out the old leadership and bring in the new!
Background: A Brief Summary of China’s Modern History
On October 1, 1949 the leader of China’s Communist Party, Mao Zedong, announced to the world the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Since then China has been ruled by the Communist Party.
There is absolutely no democracy permitted within China. Any criticism of the Communist Party is illegal.
Three important events have taken place within China that demonstrate the incredible sense of control that the Communist Party exerts over its people:
Misinformation: The Covid-19 coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China in November 2019 which led to the first recorded case appearing on December 1, 2019. China’s ruling communist party has had problems at times even acknowledging that basic fact. They have begun to spread misinformation, at one point blaming the US military for bringing the coronavirus into Wuhan, and later even blaming Europe for spreading the virus and starting the pandemic. On December 28, 2020, the Chinese government sentenced a Chinese journalist, Zhang Zhan, to four years in prison. Her only “crime” was reporting about the covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. At times the Chinese government has even tried to claim that covid-19 does not even exist in China anymore. Given the need for the Chinese authorities to appear to be in complete control of the covid-19 pandemic, it may be difficult to explain why on March 28, 2022 the entire city of Shanghai, China’s financial capital and largest city with 26 million inhabitants, has been placed in lockdown.
WHO Involvement: Preliminary investigations have alleged that the communist government hid the severity of the new coronavirus not only from their own people but also from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the rest of the world.
SARS Epidemic: In 2003, according to the WHO, China’s communist leaders covered up the previous coronavirus pandemic (the SARS epidemic), which would give little credibility to any denial on the part of the current communist government in the COVID-19 crisis.
Compensation: For the first time, some Western countries such as the USA are pushing back and refusing to accept the misinformation issued by China’s communist government. The USA has even hinted at demanding that China reimburse the American government for all of its expenses in fighting COVID-19. This could easily amount to over $16 trillion US for the USA alone. If other countries follow suit, it could be very expensive for China.
Until recently, the communist government could promise foreign businessmen (and businesswomen) that it was safe to do business in China: as a western investor you could come and go without worry. That situation has now changed, as according to recent news media (e.g. CBC News) reports, western businessmen have begun to be arrested arbitrarily by China’s secret police, and effectively held for ransom.
If you are a businessman or businesswoman, you must consider the following before you decide to do business with China, particularly if you want to invest in its manufacturing sector (e.g. factories). The opportunity to make higher profits can come with a very high price, even affecting your safety and well-being such as:
Arbitrary Arrest: China has no individual rights. Unlike the USA, there is no Bill of Rights. The Chinese Communist Party decides what is right and wrong. No one can question their decisions nor their authority. If you are in China (e.g. conducting business), you or any members of your company or family can be subject to arbitrary arrest by Chinese secret police. Such an event happened to two Canadian businessmen who were in China both conducting routine business. On December 10, 2018, Michael Kovrig was arrested in Beijing and Michael Spavor was arrested in Dandong. Both were arbitrarily arrested, accused of breaking China’s national security laws, and thrown in prison where they had no contact with the outside world. On September 24, 2021 after nearly three years in jail, the two Michaels were released from prison after the Canadian government had freed Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer of Huawei. Ms. Wanzhou was supposed to have been extradited to the USA to face bank fraud charges. In effect, it was a prisoner exchange: the Chinese government deliberately arrested the two Canadian businessmen and held them for ransom until the Canadian government freed Meng Wanzhou and allowed her to return to China.
Asset Confiscation: Your company’s assets can be confiscated at any time without any recourse (i.e. the government can nationalize your company at any time).
Bribes: There have been ongoing allegations for years that foreign businesses will need to pay “administrative fees” (i.e. bribes) to conduct business in China. These fees are then paid to communist party officials, which enables that foreign company to undertake its business affairs. In 2017 a news media report stated that the typical annual salary of a communist party official was roughly $25,000 US; yet such communist party officials (or their families) are able to purchase luxury properties, particularly abroad in cities such as Vancouver, Canada.
Possible Future Criminal Charges: At some point in the future, if China does become a democracy, you could be charged by the new democratic Chinese government of “aiding and abetting” the communist regime. Even if that event does not happen for some time, the current communist regime could charge you with trying to bribe a government official (even though such a practice is apparently quite common). Corruption within the communist government is an ongoing issue for its leaders. The division between rich and poor is getting wider, and that does not look good for a so-called communist government (whose basis is supposed to be equality amongst everyone in society).
Poor Quality Control: The goods that your company wants manufactured in China will more than likely be of poor quality, as there is little quality control. For example, years ago when steel was imported into the USA from China it was found to be substandard, easily fracturing which made it a poor building material. Even products not manufactured such as fresh seafood have had quality control problems, riddled with contaminants such as antibiotics.
Health Concerns: If you spend time in China, your physical health can be comprised due to high levels of air and water pollution. The lack of environmental controls is part of the reason why China is able to cheaply manufacture products.
Former British Colony: Hong Kong used to be a colony of the British Empire. This city (and its surrounding territory) was returned to China in 1997 where it became a special administrative region, retaining a separate government and economic system from that of mainland China. Before Britain transferred control of Hong Kong, China had agreed to respect Hong Kong’s political autonomy and guarantee it for 50 years.
Wealthy City: Before its return, Hong Kong had become one of the world’s most wealthy and successful capitalist cities. It was truly “the jewel in the crown” for China to have added this city to its territory. The Chinese communist government recognized Hong Kong’s tremendous economic worth, and promised to retain Hong Kong’s way of life, so that it could continue to generate huge revenue from international trade. Chinese government officials even used the slogan “One country, two systems” to demonstrate their commitment to Hong Kong’s special status.
Ongoing Protests: As time has progressed, the Chinese communist government has forgotten its promise to Hong Kong, and tried to subordinate it to the governance of the mainland communist government. The end result has been ongoing protests from Hong Kong residents who do not want to see their way of life destroyed and assimilated into the communist system. Those protests and any civil liberties are now banned by China.
National Security Law: In May 2020 the Chinese communist government imposed a National Security Law, which basically removed Hong Kong’s autonomy and the civil liberties of its residents. On June 30th of that year, China then enacted that new law, taking complete control over Hong Kong and destroying its democracy. China’s assimilation plan will more than likely destroy Hong Kong as we know it, effectively “killing its golden goose”! This should not be surprising as the hallmark of China’s communist government has always been to ensure control and conformity to its policies, no matter what the cost. In protest, the American government threatened to end Hong Kong’s special trade status, a move that could cost China billions of dollars in lost revenue. China ignored the threat and on July 14, 2020 former President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending Hong Kong’s special trade status. It was truly the end of an era! Some analysts have suggested that China may reconsider its oppressive policies towards Hong Kong, but that is unlikely. In early 2022, Chinese authorities have continued their attack upon Hong Kong’s democracy and have begun arresting journalists who speak out for Hong Kong’s human rights. The rest of the world has to accept reality: Hong Kong is no longer open for business! Do not even travel there, as Chinese authorities can now arbitrarily arrest you and put you in prison (just like they did with Canada’s two Michaels).
For years, China’s communist government has bombarded the western world with images of China’s incredible economic wealth. Thanks to the supposed good governance of the communist party, there was so much abundant wealth that most citizens could own their own homes, even two or three homes. Everyone, particularly the Chinese people, were led to believe that China’s booming real estate industry would go on for many more years.
China Evergrande Group: Unfortunately, China’s real estate bubble has now burst, and not even the authoritarian communist party can hide this economic disaster: the China Evergrande Group, China’s second largest property development company has defaulted on its loan payments. It has a debt that has now hit $300 billion USD, which is sending shock waves throughout China’s real estate market. Hard to believe that this company’s stock values used to be the world’s most valuable, and now it is in default. It has ignited a chain reaction pushing other companies, including banks, to the verge of collapse.
China’s GDP Is Impacted: For decades China’s communist party has ignored the rampant speculation that engulfed the real estate industry and now this sector that accounts for 29% of China’s GDP threatens the entire economy. So far, the government has offered no solution to solve the problem.
China’s Economic Boom Was An Illusion: Behind the glittering modern skyline of many of China’s cities lies an ugly truth that the communist party does not want to deal with: the country’s miraculous economic growth was due primarily to its speculative real estate market. In particular, the China Evergrande real estate fiasco is shaping up to be the equivalent of what happened to the United States in 2008, except China’s fate will be worse. For years the China Evergrande real estate company has been engaged in a Ponzi (pyramid-like) scheme: homes were sold in advance to the public, and then those funds were used to finance new housing projects. The only problem was: most of the current projects were never completed. To make matter worse, people were required to start making mortgage payments to the banks as soon as the property had been purchased. Huge numbers of people were buying real estate: at least 75% of China’s household wealth is tied up in its housing market. No doubt China Evergrande was allowed to run a Ponzi scheme without any oversight from government officials, as its CEO, Xu Jiayin, was well connected to the communist party.
Home Buyers Are Protesting: Home buyers are furious with their politicians who have done little to solve the problem. Many are now refusing to make their mortgage payments, which has placed many Chinese banks in financial jeopardy. China Evergrande owes money to over 170 domestic banks and to over 120 financial institutions. Home buyers are taking to the streets protesting this injustice, only to be met by armed police who arrest them and throw them in jail. China’s state-run media is not allowed to show any of these protests. As usual, the communist government is hiding the truth. Home prices in many of China’s cities has declined by over 20% and more decreases are being forecasted.
China’s Ghost Cities: Throughout China there are millions of unfinished and vacant apartments and buildings, so many that they have created “ghost cities.” Property developers do not have the money to complete housing projects, people are withdrawing all of their money from the banks, the banks are running out of funds and in turn are freezing everyone’s deposits. It is a nightmare scenario that has no solution in sight.
The Bai Lan Youth: China’s youth have become known as “Bai Lan” youth (meaning “let it rot”). More and more of them are disillusioned with the corrupt communist party and the status quo. Western politicians and businesses need to realize that China’s success is more image than substance. With the economy rapidly deteriorating, investing in China is now a huge risk.
Warren Buffet: You may want to follow Warren Buffet’s example, and start selling off your Chinese investments. China’s economic problems are only going to get worse. Get out of the country while you still can! Otherwise, there is a good chance that the government will impose severe currency controls, preventing companies, particularly, foreign companies, from withdrawing any of their wealth from China.
President Xi Jinping: It is somewhat surreal watching state-run media showing President Xi Jinping celebrating his unprecedented election to a third term as leader of the communist party while his country is falling apart. He and his fellow communist party officials don’t want to accept reality: more and more Chinese don’t support the communist regime and want change.
Russia has been ruled by President Vladimir Putin since May 7, 2000 (now over 20 years). As former head of Russia’s notorious secret service (the KGB), he has ruled Russia with an iron fist, strengthening Russia and ensuring that it remains a world power. However, it has come at a huge cost, especially economically and politically to most Russians.
Putin’s Rule: Putin has ruled Russia as its president for over 20 years. He is now 69 years old. He refuses to step down and make way for a younger leader.
President for Life: In May 2020 Russia’s State Duma approved changes to Russia’s constitution so that Putin could stay on as president to 2036 (at which time Putin will be 83 years old).
Dictatorship: Putin has turned Russia into a dictatorship: elections are meaningless (as the successful candidates have already been selected); all of the major news media companies are controlled by the government (so you only hear what the government wants you to hear); and anyone who stands up to Putin is either sent to prison or mysteriously murdered (such as Boris Nemtsov).
Attack on the Ukraine: On February 24, 2022, Putin ordered Russian troops to attack the Ukraine for no apparent reason. Russia’s actions have created the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and left many cities in the Ukraine in ruins. Even if Putin wins the war, he loses! What good is any country if its infrastructure and economy is in ruins? Putin has threatened many times to restore Russia’s empire (i.e. what was once Eastern Europe), and it now appears that he has made good on his threats. Many Europeans in particular are now in shock and disbelief that Putin could act so ruthlessly and irresponsibly. When Putin declared himself president for life, most Europeans should have realized that he was on par with previous Russian dictators such as Stalin and Czar Nicholas II. Instead of trying to appease Putin (which many western politicians did), the West should have been building up its military forces and made the Ukraine part of the EU and NATO.
Putin’s State of Health: Putin has always been boastful of his superior health. That is now in question. Putin has appeared in public in March 2022 with a bloated face and neck, which medical professionals are citing as evidence that he is undergoing possible steroid or chemotherapy drug treatment. Rumors abound that Putin may be suffering from cancer. At the same time, he has also appeared in public rambling like a madman, which is the total opposite of his usual cool, in-control demeanor. Putin’s health could deteriorate to the point that he will no longer be able to function as usual, in which case he will need to be replaced (and dictators do not usually resign).
Possible Course of Action: The entire world (by means of the UN) has to band together and denounce Russia for its reckless behavior. Economic sanctions and travel restrictions have to be imposed to cripple Russia’s economy and make the Russian people aware that the rest of the world won’t pacify Russia anymore. If Russians want to support Putin, then they can pay the price of doing so! Also, all western countries need to send military and financial aid to the Ukraine. The NATO alliance, particularly within the EU, has to increase its military forces dramatically. In 2018, former President Trump criticized NATO countries for not meeting their military obligations. Such criticism was met by anger from European members of NATO. It would appear that Trump was just forcing Europeans to accept reality: they cannot assume that the USA is going to continue to bear the brunt of NATO’s expenses and military obligations. The European allies have to do their part.
Russia’s GDP: Since 2008, the GDP of Russia has stayed the same. Many Russians have seen a continual drop in their standard of living. The average monthly pension, for example, is now only $210 US per month, which is not enough to live on. Many Russian seniors are starving, as they don’t have enough money to buy food or pay for heating.
The Oligarchs: Russia’s wealth (e.g. its vast oil reserves) are siphoned off by Putin and his oligarchs (businessmen who have been given monopolies by Putin). They live in total luxury while the rest of Russia lives in misery and poverty.
Personal Wealth of Putin: Apparently Putin is one of the world’s most richest men. In 2019, the US Senate Judiciary Committee was informed that Putin’s personal fortune is estimated at $200 billion US. Putin believes that what belongs to Russia, belongs to him. In March 2022 the British media reported that his personal luxury mansion on the Black Sea was worth $1.3 billion USD. Most Russians are lucky to even pay their monthly rent!
Income Inequality: The distribution of wealth within Russia is so stark that Putin and his oligarchs have basically re-created the society that existed before the 1917 Russian Revolution with Putin acting as Czar Nicholas II and his oligarchs acting as Russia’s aristocracy (the dukes, counts, and princes). The czar and his aristocrats all lived in splendor while the masses slowly starved to death. It was this vast disparity in income that eventually turned the Russian people to revolt in 1917; and it may be the catalyst to foment revolution again at some point in the very near future.
Secret Police: To maintain his hold on Russia’s citizens, Putin uses his secret police, the Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB is the successor to the infamous KGB (of which Putin was its head). Apparently Czar Nicholas II did the same thing: his secret police arrested, tortured, and murdered anyone opposing the rule of the czar. History appears to be repeating itself.
Greek Debt: Since 2010, the Greek government, a member of the European Union (EU), has borrowed 320 billion euros, primarily from the EU and individual EU countries. The amount of loans to Greece has been the biggest financial rescue of a bankrupt country in mankind’s history. As of 2015, Greece owed individual countries such as Germany 56 billion euros, France 42 billion euros, Italy 37 billion euros, and Spain 25 billion euros.
Greek Bailout: So far, Greece has had 3 major bailouts from the EU. No doubt more bailouts will be necessary. Financial analysts have described Greece as a bottomless money pit, draining financial resources from the EU with no end in sight. During the last bailout, former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel had the opportunity to correct this dire situation; instead she agreed to continue the EU’s financial support of Greece and allow Greece to stay on the euro currency. It is common knowledge, however, that Greece will never be able to re-pay the massive amounts of monies that it has been borrowing. Given this situation, Germany will need to write off all of Greece’s bad loans, and charge everything to German taxpayers.
European Central Bank: Germany contributes almost 21.5% of the capital of the European Central Bank, but has negligible authority on its Governing Council as to how the money should be spent.
EU Budget: In 2018, Germany’s contributed 20.78% to the EU’s budget , the highest of any EU member state, more than Italy (11.74%) and Spain (8.31%) combined.
EU Budget Increase: In 2020, Germany’s net annual EU budget contribution (i.e. the amount of money Germany pays in excess of what it receives back) was 15 billion euros. The EU wants to steadily raise Germany’s annual net contribution so that by 2027 it will be paying up to 33 billion euros (over a 100% increase in its budget payments to the EU). Apparently a major reason is that the EU needs Germany to help make up the budget shortage caused by the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the EU in 2020. The amount that Germany paid into the EU in 2020 was 28 billion euros.
Corona Bonds: Several EU member states are in financial trouble, particularly Spain and Italy. As of 2020, Italy, for example, has a debt of 2.5 trillion euros due to the Italian government overspending in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Italy’s debt is now 130% of its GDP (second only to Greece). Even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Italy’s banks (as well as Spain’s) were on the verge of bankruptcy. Italy, Spain, and France have requested the EU to issue common debt financial instruments known as Corona Bonds. These countries want the massive debt that would need to be repaid on the books of the EU, not individual countries. In other words, Italy’s debt would become part of Germany’s debt, not its own. At the moment, Italy is kept financially afloat due to the European Central Bank buying its debt in the financial markets.
Coronavirus Financial Damage: All EU member states have been financially hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, even Germany. The German government has had to spend billions of euros propping up its own businesses and banks as well as providing financial support to its own people. To date, these payments have amounted to 7% of Germany’s GDP, and there is no end yet to the coronavirus pandemic.
NATO Contributions: All member states of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) agreed many years ago to spend a minimum 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on national defence. Former American President, Donald Trump, emphatically stated that it’s not the USA’s responsibility to be the world’s policeman. He wanted to reduce the USA’s financing of everyone else’s protection, particularly with NATO (which is responsible for Europe’s defence).
American Contributions: Even though there are 28 member states, it was reported in 2017 that the USA contributes 22% of the NATO budget. Also, in 2017 the American president stated that the USA was spending 3.61% of its GDP towards national defence while Germany was only spending 1.2% (a little more than Canada’s 1.02%).
NATO Budget Targets: Again all member states of NATO are supposed to be equal, but as of 2017 only 5 member states were meeting the 2% target. The German government under former Chancellor Angela Merkel denied that Germany was not contributing its fair share towards defence spending, yet the statistics prove otherwise. The USA will not continue the status quo, so Germany will have to reluctantly devote more financial resources to its own national defence and not rely so heavily upon the USA (which it has done since the end of World War II). Apparently Germany will not be able to meet’s its NATO defence spending goal until 2031. That may not be acceptable to the USA and other allies, as many would argue that Germany is not taking its NATO responsibilities serious.
Observation: It does not help Germany’s case when by all observations Germany seems to have no problem allocating massive amounts of extra funds (hundreds of billions of euros) to willingly take in over 1.3 million refugees, giving them access to German’s generous welfare system (many of these refugees were living in Turkey and were not living in war-like conditions), yet it can’t find the money to pay its fair share of NATO costs.
Germany had a national election on September 24, 2017 and its results were quite shocking, particularly for its longtime chancellor, Angela Merkel. Even though she was re-elected as chancellor for a 4th term, her policies allowed a right-wing pro-nationalist political party to enter the German Parliament (the Bundestag) for the first time since World War II. The AfD (Alternative for Germany) party won 94 seats in Parliament, and is now the third largest political party.
Interestingly, support for the AfD was highest amongst those aged from 35 to 44 years and lowest amongst those age 70 and older. Afd has vowed to rein in Angela Merkel to prevent her from allowing refugees and migrants indiscriminately into Germany (where they can gain access to Germany’s welfare system). The Afd is not a fan of the euro and wants Germany to return to its previous currency, the Deutschmark.
Net Contributor Status: The German economy is the strongest in Europe. Given that fact, Germany could easily abandon the euro and return to the Deutschmark. It will be interesting to see how much longer the average German taxpayer is willing to fund (and basically prop up) many of the poor economies within the European Union (EU) such as Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland. It is making less and less economic (business) sense for Germany to fund the EU. It’s financial contributions are steadily increasing with no end in sight. It is officially classified as a “net” contributor, which is a nice way to say that it pays more into the EU than it receives back. (The United Kingdom was also a net contributor for many years, and this fact became the major reason why the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU.)
High Health Care Costs: In many ways, Germany does not need the European Union as much as the European Union needs Germany. New political parties such as AfD can easily argue that German taxpayers funds should be spent on such initiatives as trying to reduce the amount that Germans have to pay each month for their ever increasing health care costs (which on average can be between 400 to 700 euros – $440 to $769 US – per month with 50% of that cost covered if you have an employer) as opposed to Germany spending its tax revenue trying to endlessly prop up other EU countries (many of which are mismanaged and have little incentive to change, especially since Germany is basically bankrolling the EU).
Up until December 2021, Angela Merkel was Germany’s chancellor (equivalent to the post of president or prime minister). She was revered by the majority of Germans: she could do no wrong, and for the past 16 years represented German interests with the rest of the world. She was raised in communist East Germany, is fluent in Russian, and has had a very long term “friendship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During that time, Chancellor Merkel did little to enhance Germany’s military capability, as a matter of fact under her leadership Germany’s military was underfunded and basically allowed to wither away. Had Germany been attacked by a foreign power, it could not have defended itself (relying as usual upon the USA to come to its rescue). For her entire term in office, Chancellor Merkel followed an appeasement policy, particularly with Russia. In 2014, Russia attacked the Ukraine and annexed the Crimea. In response, the USA put forth the initiative to its European allies of arming the Ukraine (to repel any further Russian attacks). Both Chancellor Merkel and then French President Francois Hollande intervened: they both opposed the idea, suggesting that diplomacy with President Putin of Russia would be sufficient.
In 2005, ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, ratified the Nord Stream pipeline project, connecting Germany to Russia’s gas distribution system. After he left office, he became Chairman of Nord Stream. When Angela Merkel took over from Schroder, she continued his policy of making Germany dependent upon Russia for their energy needs. When former President Donald Trump of the USA and President Zelenskiy of the Ukraine criticized this project, they were ignored. This massive pipeline project was finally completed in September 2021. Germany then began the certification process, which would have easily been given except for massive criticism of the project from its allies. Germany is the key member of the EU: it basically keeps the EU financed and operating. It is also a key member of NATO, yet Germany under Chancellor Merkel ignored the obvious security concerns (i.e. making Germany dependent upon Russia) and financial implications (i.e. transferring vast sums of money to Putin who would have used the funds to finance his military ambitions) that other countries were worried about. In February 2022, Putin attacked the Ukraine and sent in an estimated 100,000 to 190,000 troops. Former Chancellor Merkel (who left the office in December 2021) misjudged Putin. Her 16 years of diplomacy and systematic reduction of Germany’s military was a complete failure. While she talked, Putin quietly built up his military, until he was ready to invade the Ukraine. Germany single-handedly weakened the EU and NATO, leaving most of Europe vulnerable to Russian military advances. The Baltic states, for example, would be an easy target for Putin, and from there he can proceed into the rest of Eastern Europe (much like Hitler did during World War II).
National Security: Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan warned that North Korea’s threat to launch nuclear weapons upon Japan is the greatest threat to Japan since the end of World War II. Since 1945, Japan has solely depended upon the USA for its national security. In 2017, former American President, Donald Trump, informed the Japanese government that it has to take more responsibility for its national security, and cannot rely solely upon the USA to protect it from other hostile countries. This is a huge shift for Japan to make, as it has a pacifist constitution, preventing it from re-arming.
Missile Attacks: Since 2017, North Korea has launched the following missiles towards Japan:
Given the fact that since 2017 North Korea has continued its pattern of aggression towards Japan, the Japanese government may not have any other option but to re-arm its country. North Korea has embarked on a dangerous arms race creating nuclear weapons and threatening to use them against other Asian countries as well as the USA. In February 2022, Japan’s Defense Minister, Nobuo Kishi, stated that in January 2022, North Korea has resumed its missile testing program. For example, on January 30, 2022, North Korea fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile (which landed off the eastern coast of North Korea). Japan’s Defense Minister has publicly stated that North Korea continues to threaten the security of Japan as well as other Asian countries.
Security analysts have speculated that either Communist China or Russia has been secretly assisting North Korea with its nuclear weapons program, which would explain how such a poor and backward country like North Korea could suddenly have unlimited funds to develop an expensive and technologically sophisticated nuclear weapons program.
Threat to National Security: In 2019, for the first time in Japan’s modern history, Japan has placed communist China as a bigger threat to national security than North Korea.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (i.e. the building of railways, roads, ports, etc.) has been singled out by the Japanese government as a potential threat. So far more than 130 countries worldwide have either signed agreements with China or expressed an interest in the Initiative. Critics view such an Initiative as a “debt trap”, especially for emerging countries. These expensive construction projects can leave a host country with massive unpaid debt, and give the Chinese government influence over the host country’s government (e.g. allow China’s military to set up a military base in that host country).
Japan is worried that China may use its Belt and Road Initiative to place its army throughout Asia and the rest of the world.
First Overseas Military Base: The country of Ethiopia in Africa is a recipient of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and has now allowed China to set up its first overseas military base for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Djibouti.
Military Spending: China’s military spending has been increasing for the past 26 years. For 2019 it was $177 billion US. By 2021, China allocated $207.3 billion US for its military. It has expressed the desire to obtain stealth fighter aircraft and aircraft carriers. The latter would suggest that China has definite imperialist ambitions. It now has the world’s largest military: over 2 million personnel. In comparison, for 2021, Japan’s military spending was $47.2 billion US, and there were 247,150 personnel in its military.
Balanced Budget Promise: In 2015, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference and re-iterated his campaign pledge to balance the federal government’s “books” within 4 years. This promise, he swore, was “very” cast in stone. The only problem with making such a promise was the fact that he and his fellow liberals had made billions of dollars of campaign promises.
The Canadian federal government’s budget deficits (on an annual basis) since 2015 are as follows:
Observation: Ever since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister, he has not kept his promise to balance the federal governments “books”. Even though Canada’s economy was booming, his government had record high budget deficits every fiscal year. Canada’s net debt now stands at $942.5 billion CDN (or 42% of Canada’s GDP). In comparison, in 2019 the net debt was 29.8% of Canada’s GDP. In 2022, there appears to be no plans on the part of Trudeau or his fellow Liberal M.P.’s to reduce this debt, as a matter of fact, they are not even interested in discussing it. The federal government blames the covid-19 pandemic for the record high debt, yet Canada’s out-of-control debt issues existed long before the pandemic ever appeared.
Even before the covid-19 pandemic, cities such as Toronto and Vancouver were experiencing out-of-control real estate costs. As the costs of buying a house, apartment, or commercial business spiral upwards, so do tenant rents for both individuals and businesses. Real estate speculators have had free rein to do whatever they want with minimal government intervention. In turn, more and more Canadians are paying a higher percentage of their income towards paying their rent or mortgage. Homelessness is also becoming a more serious problem in all of Canada’s major cities. Fewer businesses will be attracted to cities such as Vancouver or Toronto if the cost of doing business is too high: such costs also makes it very difficult to find staff who are willing to transfer to such unaffordable places. The long-term effect upon Canada’s business sector and individual home buyer sector is not very positive: only the rich will be able to live in those cities.
Statistics detailing Canada’s housing market is as follows:
Trudeau and China: For the past several years, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has encouraged Canadian businesses to do business with China. He has even personally led teams of Canadian businessmen to China in order to cement business relationships between Canada and China.
Unlike the American President, Donald Trump, Canada’s Prime Minister has never adhered to a “Made in Canada” stance. Prime Minister Trudeau is a firm believer in Free Trade and is not concerned that much of Canada’s manufacturing sector (primarily from Quebec and Ontario) has moved overseas.
Not Safe for Business (or Travel): As reported above in the case study of China, it is no longer safe for western businessmen (and businesswomen) to do business in China. China’s secret police has started arresting Canadian businessmen for no reason and throwing them in prison (on false charges). Canadians in particular (and more than likely any foreign nationals) travelling to China as tourists also run the risk of being arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.
Kovrig & Spavor: Such an event happened to two Canadian businessmen who were in China both conducting routine business. On December 10, 2018, Michael Kovrig was arrested in Beijing and Michael Spavor was arrested in Dandong. Both were arbitrarily arrested, accused of breaking China’s national security laws (which they denied doing), and thrown in prison where they have had no contact with the outside world until their release about 3 years later (in September 2021). The arrest of the two Canadian businessmen was intentional. China was unhappy that Canada was holding Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, who was under house arrest awaiting extradition to the USA for bank fraud charges. China did a prisoner exchange: they returned the two Michaels to Canada on condition that Canada return Ms. Wanzhou to China. It was blackmail on the part of the Chinese government, but they got the Canadian federal government to do what they wanted. Many foreign commentators were horrified, stating that such actions on the part of the Canadian government will now encourage the Chinese authorities to use kidnapping and blackmail as the means to get what they want.
Observations / Suggestions:
Trudeau’s Response: When questioned by the press, Prime Minister Trudeau refused to answer what he was doing to obtain the release of these Canadian businessmen. It would appear that Trudeau did nothing, as he did not want to deal with this “delicate” situation for fear that he would offend the Chinese communist government. (As Prime Minister, Trudeau has lavished public praise on China’s communist government, even saying how much he admires their efficiency.)
Arbitrary Arrest – Foreign Nationals: These two incidents should make those in the business community (as well as the tourism industry) take notice. If you enter China even for legitimate reasons, you run the risk of arbitrary arrest. This can easily happen to anyone regardless of their nationality, i.e. China’s secret police can easily arrest American or German businessmen (or tourists) for no valid reason and imprison them.
Asset Seizures: Even if you don’t personally visit China, your company’s assets can be seized at any time by the Chinese government or your Chinese-based factory can be ordered to make what the Chinese government wants. (This has recently happened to those companies making Personal Protection Equipment – PPE.)
Do Business Elsewhere: It would appear that the two Michaels incident has not harmed Canada’s relationship with China. Canada wants to continue to do business with China even if China kidnaps Canadian citizens for no valid reason and swaps them for Chinese nationals that are under arrest in Canada. Your company, however, may want to look elsewhere to do business. China does not have a manufacturing monopoly. Other countries can easily produce your products for a fair price without the unsafe business conditions, major human rights violations, and disregard for the environment. Try within Canada itself, or the USA, Europe, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, India, etc.
Can you imagine some of the world’s most popular travel destinations such as Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Istanbul, Venice, Provence, the French Riviera, and Budapest running out of drinking water and then having to impose severe water restrictions? As unbelievable as that may seem, it has become a real possibility. Throughout its short history, the European Union (EU) has consistently downplayed many of its major problems such as the migrant crisis, terrorism, and the military threat from Russia. An ongoing problem, however, has emerged that will soon overshadow everything else: drought is again hitting the EU, threatening entire areas, particularly Southern Europe.
In 2022, drought conditions in Southern Europe were the worst in 500 years. In central France, for example, drought conditions were so severe that over a hundred towns had no water at all – no tap water – the water had to be trucked in by the local governments. This year the following areas near and within Europe are already affected:
According to CNN World News in 2022, over 60% of the EU and UK experienced drought conditions. Unfortunately, the winter months provided little to no snow nor rain. As of May 2023, some European news agencies are reporting that only 20% of the EU’s land mass is experiencing drought conditions, but that figure is more than likely heavily understated given the carry-over of warm weather from 2022. Summer in the EU is only beginning, and is forecast to be extremely hot. The potential impact upon the EU’s and UK’s food supply could be catastrophic, driving up the cost of fruits, vegetables, and even meat products. Inflation is already a huge problem in the EU and in the UK, and this will only drive inflation higher.
Even though rainfall has occurred within the EU, it has been sporadic. When it does arrive, it falls quickly upon dry, parched earth that is so hard none of the rain can penetrate it, which is causing flooding and landslides. To make matters worse, another natural disaster is underway, particularly in Italy: salt water from nearby bodies of water such as the Adriatic Sea are now entering fresh-water rivers rendering them unfit for consumption.
The drought conditions within the EU started back in 2018 and have been getting progressively worse. Before the creation of the EU, individual countries took responsibility for water management issues. Now, they seem to view it as an EU problem, not theirs to solve. To date the only measures being discussed in the EU are paying compensation to farmers whose crops have been destroyed by drought. That is at best a short-term solution. The issue of water management is something that the EU can no longer downplay or ignore. Otherwise, entire countries particularly in western Europe may soon become unlivable – a very surreal prospect and not one that anyone wants to envision! Apparently the European tourism industry does not want this issue to be discussed by the media for fear that it will scare away tourists. Well, tourists will discover this for themselves once they realize that there is no tap water (no water for drinking, cooking, or bathing in). It’s kind of difficult to hide such a crisis!