Gaia Danese

The health question

As Chavez battles cancer, all of Venezuela will be affected by its leader’s health. His impact and the force of his personality has been such that any measure of absence will be fraught with instability.

Talking heads
Stars rising in the East

On April 3, 2012 the leaders of the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – gathered in Phnom Pen, Cambodia for the 20th ASEAN Summit. A declaration was adopted with a rather suggestive title: “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny.” A Community of around 600 million people, is supposed to be built by 2015, based on values such as integration, inclusive economic growth and prosperity. In spite of the inevitable spill-over of the global crisis, ASEAN is expected to be a driving force of recovery due particularly to growing domestic demand, relatively low unemployment, continued capital inflows and public investment. There are open challenges of course: Will leaders be able to support stable, non-inflationary growth? Will they succeed in redistributing wealth and reduce poverty and corruption? How will they manage the relationship with neighboring China? The ASEAN Economic Community, which aims to create common markets of goods and services, may be the star of the future, something much more sound than the heterogeneous BRICS. Leaders of the top five ASEAN countries – expected to grow an average of 5% this year – have a lot in common, even in their to-do list. Resiliency is more then ever their key word, as a driver of creative, positive and optimistic societies. They have a say which is worth listening to.

Talking heads
The BRICS’s rising self-awareness

Since 2006, when their foreign ministers met in New York for the first time, the leading developing nations, better known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and then South Africa since 2010) have taken center stage on the international scene. Everybody is aware that those countries today represent roughly one-third of the world’s total population, have a combined GDP of around $13.6 trillion and hold an estimated $4.3 trillion in foreign reserves, nearly half the world’s total. Despite their increasing visibility, very little is known about them. We hope they will save us from the economic crisis, we want them to join in managing the global agenda and to be “responsible stakeholders” and fair players in the world market. But what are they really about? If we want to know these not very homogeneous countries better, a worthy starting question could be: “Who do they think they are?” It would also be useful to have a look at their ideas about where they stand on the international scene and what their ambitions are.