17 April 2015   Leave a comment

57 countries have joined the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as charter members.  The US and Japan did not join and Taiwan’s bid was not accepted, but virtually every other rich country is a member.  The bank intends to open for business next year but it will have capital resources of about $100 billion.   The support for the bank represents a defeat for the US which had urged states not to join because of fears of how the bank will be run–the US fears that its transactions will not be fully transparent.  Initially, voting rights in the bank will be based on a state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a rule that clearly favors the decisions of the richer countries.

Thailand’s military leaders set up a constitutional review committee to write a new constitution, and it issued a draft constitution that is likely to create controversy.  The draft will undergo a review before it is finally accepted, but it provides immunity for the military officers who led the coup d’etat last year.  Moreover, it allows a non-elected official to become Prime Minister which many suspect is a loophole designed to allow the general who led the coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to remain as Prime Minister even though he has never been elected to Parliament.  The next few weeks are critical to the re-establishment of democracy in Thailand and we will have to watch events there carefully.

Palm oil is one of the most common of all vegetable oils, accounting for about 40% of all internationally traded vegetable oils.  Palm plantations have been popping up all over the tropical parts of the world to keep up with demand, but those plantations are often created through widespread deforestation and destruction of natural habitats.  There is a growing controversy over the creation of a palm plantation in Peru which is being set up to provide the oil for chocolate (my favorite food group!).  The project is supported by a company called United Cacao which markets itself as an ethical alternative investment (its website, http://www.unitedcacao.com, was down at the time of this posting).  There are questions, however, about the seeming disregard for the environment in the Peruvian plantation.

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Posted April 18, 2015 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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