Letters to the Editor

Back to homepage

I was moved to read about UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (Autumn issue of CFI.co). She is perfectly right in saying that cynicism is a killer and she has no patience with those who tell us that nothing can be done – even when there are pressing needs. Yes, the dual miseries of cynicism and indifference hold us back from making our world a happier place. Clearly, Amina is someone who gets things done. She was able to get the funding in place for that much-needed hospital in the city of her birth in Nigeria. Bravo again!

Winnie Armstrong Cape Town, South Africa

Sadly, Venezuela has become an embarrassment to South America. Its irresponsible government harms not only Venezuelans but also other people on the continent who get tainted by geographical association. South American countries have outgrown their tumultuous past and now embrace modernity, but Venezuela remains committed to an economic model that has produced misery and want wherever applied. It is a mystery why President Maduro insists on staying a course that has failed.

Reynaldo Ramos Curitiba, Brazil

It was frightening to read (in a recent issue of CFI.co) that 20,000 firearms have gone missing in Mexico since 2006 and that most – if not all – of these weapons will have fallen into the wrong hands. I am sure the problem is serious in many other countries too and something needs to be done urgently. Pyramidal Technologies appears to have come up with an effective registration and forensics platform to help law enforcement agencies cope with the situation. That is very good news for us all.

Susan Simons Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Please keep up your reporting on our country. To an outsider, Argentina may seem confusing, but there is actually a semblance of order within the chaos. They key thing to watch for, as the country embarks on its long-overdue reform process, is what happens to the judiciary and how it deals with the corruption cases under investigation. The only thing holding Argentina back is corruption. Do away with that and you’ll have a fully developed country in no time.

Veronica Sanchez Salta, Argentina

There is hope – if stock exchanges assume a major role is pushing for the greening of corporate practices. However promising and necessary green finance is, it still fails to address other equally important ills such as poor governance and inequality. How long before people realise that they’ve been had? In the UK, the Labour Party now considers adopting a policy in its manifesto that limits pay differences in any company to a factor of 20. No CEO may take home more than 20 times the salary of his lowest-paid worker. It’s a great idea, but perhaps not a practical one. It would perhaps be better for corporations figure this out for themselves, prodded by the same market forces that push for the tightening of environmental standards.

Esther Phillips Leeds, UK

Poor Ireland: surprised by Brexit, and soon home to an external border of the European Union not controlled in situ, lest sectarian violence rear its ugly head. The country stands to suffer if / when the UK finally decides to leave in union. It was heartening to see EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker sport a green tie in solidarity with the Irish when he met Theresa May – who again went to Brussels to ask for support of her latest Brexit-means-Brexit-but-not-quite plan. To paraphrase Mario Draghi, the EU will do whatever it takes to lessen the effects of Brexit for the Irish. That is what the EU is for: to safeguard the best interests of its member states.

Jeffrey Thompson Letterkenny, Ireland

The movement Steve Bannon wants to set up in Europe to further his bizarre notions has no chance of success. For all the hype about the electoral advances of the far right, its share of the overall vote still hovers around 15% to 20% – which is within the historical average. Europe is fundamentally different from the United States. What works there does not work here and vice-versa. That may constitute an open door, but it is one that Steve Bannon prefers to ignore. Then again, the man is essentially unemployed and must do something with all his free time.

Kasper Pichler Villach, Austria

Investors getting piqued by North Korea? You have got to be joking. Sure, it may one day become a land of opportunity – but that day is probably still eons away. And when it comes, if it ever does, you can be sure that the north will be carved up – investment-wise – between China and South Korea with just a few crumbs thrown to others to keep up appearances.

Alfred Strong Guam, USA

Thank you for indicating the dangers of crazy ideas going mainstream. Alt-truths and fake news cannot be exposed often enough. Look at Brexit Britain to discover what happens when lies, half-truths, and urban myths become respectable and even the menu of the day for some members of the government. The USA is not far behind and now seems to think that you can create wealth by closing borders to competitors that have become too successful for comfort. A large part of the Anglophone world seems to be suffering an episode. Let’s all hope it soon passes.

Franca Russo Naples, Italy

How interesting that the countries of Eastern Europe are joining hands to promote their own development via new links. This is not so much a move directed against Brussels, as it is one to bring the region up to speed and encourage economic growth through increased trade. Some fifteen years after joining the European Union, much has changed for the better in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. However, they still languish far below EU averages on most metrics. That need not be.

Montserrat Varela i Reig Girona, Spain

Why would anyone want to be a billionaire? Isn’t being a mere millionaire good enough? How much can you possibly spend in one lifetime – or even several, with descendants enjoying the good life as well at least for a while. So, why worry about protecting these vast personal fortunes that serve no apparent purpose? Take a cue from Bill Gates or Warren Buffett and give it away to people who need the money more than you do. Give if away before it is taken away. For the end is surely nigh when just a handful of billionaires own about half the world.

Vincent Lee Hong Kong, China

With the passing away of Tom Wolfe we have lost one of the truly great chroniclers of late-20th century life. However, the author not only leaves us an exceptionally good oeuvre which will surely be enjoyed and dissected by future generations of critics, he also gave us New Journalism which gave publications such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Harper’s, and even The New Yorker a business model. The internet may have profoundly changed the way people read about news and societal trends, the long form that was Tom Wolfe’s hallmark will endure in print. Some readers just want more than just a 200-word summary of what is hot – and what is not.

Shirley MacIver Portland (ME), USA

What’s up with your coverage of Brexit; arguably the biggest thing to hit European headlines in about six decades ? Are you sitting on the fence? In about six months, the indomitable UK Ship of State will set sail on an epic voyage, buccaneering its way to the world’s riches, and leaving behind a sclerotic bloc of has-beens lorded over by a few unelected faceless bureaucrats, most of them French at that. What’s not to like? Apart from pretty much everything, the moment of truth is about to arrive. It will show once and for all who’s been right. Please get with the programme.

George Plisset Cambridge, UK

The government of Argentina keeps telling the population that the current cash crisis is the last one the country will ever suffer. The reforms now underway will fix all that is wrong with Argentina. Or so they say. The IMF has come to Argentina’s rescue once again with a bailout package. Who is fooling whom here? I wish President Macri were right, but fear he is not: Argentina will keep doing the same thing repeatedly: spending too much on a welfare state it cannot afford. Each time, the government expects a different outcome. As Einstein may have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Fernando Roma Buenos Aires, Argentina

President-elect Andrés Obrador of Mexico is likely to follow the path beaten by the former president of Uruguay José Mujica and adopt an open and transparent style of leadership, devoid of political grandstanding. He will undoubtedly prove a capable and reform-minded administrator. Mexico stands on the threshold of becoming a fully developed mature market and society. It just needs one little extra push.

Robby Kroon Guadalajara, Mexico

Isn’t it nice that Stephen Bannon has exited the White House? Sadly, his departure doesn’t seem to have imbued the Trump Administration with reason. I remain quite concerned over the course taken by president Trump, his maddening tweets, and his careless brinkmanship. Bannon may have left the house, others equally dangerous have held on to their share of power.

Martin Fasslane Wilmington (DE), USA

The insights and opinions by Philippe Le Houérou of the International Finance Corporation are fascinating. I cannot understand why he doesn’t get a larger audience. Mr Le Houérou shows that there are a great many ways to mobilise private capital for development purposes. Poverty and underdevelopment simply need not be. It gets even better, getting rid of poverty is actually a highly lucrative pursuit.

Francine Lane  London, UK

Regarding last issue’s letter from the editor: I agree that a certain degree of mercantilism is called for when faced with competitive forces on a tilted playing field. As such, the European Union – concerned as it is with ESG and sustainability principles – would be well advised to shield its industry against takeovers by corporations who are a little less concerned over our planet’s wellbeing and only have eyes for the next quarter’s results. That is no way to run a business.

Joachim Franz Cologne, Germany

Former Fed chairperson Ben Bernanke was quite right in pointing out that the current account deficit sustained by the United States since the mid-1970s is the merely the result of a highly attractive investment climate. The US sucks in the world’s savings because it offers a safer have than most other countries. That is a quality rather than a deficiency.

Marjorie Deckers New York, USA

The rise of China is greatly exaggerated. A country that fears free thought and seeks to limit its people’s access to information – cowering as it does behind a firewall – is no match for those that do not suffer such insecurities. Unless Chinese leadership is willing to open up and lighten up, the country will not prosper. It may gather vast riches, but as a nation it will remain impoverished.

William K Vandenburgh, Leeds, UK

Thank you for a magnificent review of the life, times, and thoughts of Robert M Pirsig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has allowed me insights into technology and philosophy that proved of great value throughout my life. Though Mr Pirsig will be missed, his legacy will remain with us for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Patricia Severyn Trois Rivières, Canada

Quite courageous to question the premises of climate change. It would appear that on this topic no dissent is allowed even though scientists admit that their data is incomplete and subject to frequent revisions. Whilst stopping short of denying climate change outright, we may want to consider asking the doomsayers to keep calm and carry on.

Jeff Delarousse Singapore

Your article on Brazil and its archaic tax code hits a nerve. Notwithstanding the country’s excellent record in tax collection, the hallmark of a mature economy, the rates applied discourage growth and ensure that only very large corporations can comply – and survive. Then again, what’s the point of all these taxes if a significant part of the funds raised disappear into the pockets of a few powerful politicians?

Irineu Carvalho de Mello Sorocaba, Brazil

Would you not agree that irrespective of the development model chosen, its implementation is more important? It is only when policies are subverted, and shortcuts taken, for political expediency that developments stalls. The inconsistency with which policies are implemented leads to inefficiency and undermines their effectiveness. I honestly do not think it matters which model of development is chosen as long as governments adhere to the recipe and only show flexibility for pragmatic reasons; i.e. those devoid of short-term political considerations.

Jean François Belmont Lyon

Even though we live in an interconnected world, it is surprising how little we know about those on the other side. Your coverage of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and its CEO Jin Liqun show that we in the Atlantic World remain largely unaware of what goes on in China and Southeast Asia. Mr Liqun, however, seems very well informed on global developments and displays a thorough understanding of our side of the world. In order to return the courtesy, we may wish to consider encouraging young people, particularly students, to gain more awareness of China, its history and its defining characteristics. If knowledge is power, Mr Liqun et al seem to have us beat already.

Margot Hildebrand Toronto

The rejection, in Colombia, of the peace deal between government and guerrillas by the population emphasises the folly of calling a referendum on whatever question is plaguing the nation. In Colombia, an agreement almost a decade in the making was rejected by the narrowest of majorities. Effectively, only a few thousand voters now hold the country’s future hostage. Far from democratic, referendums allow the political flavour of the day to determine a country’s long-term destiny which is set in stone even though public opinion may have changed (yet again) a few days or weeks later. This is no way to run a country – unless, of course, that country happens to be Switzerland. Sadly, or luckily, there is only one Switzerland in the world.

Alvaro Fides Medellin

Europe is a mess. It is a continent of has-beens. Sure, there is some prosperity. But, have a look in Greece, or in next door Bulgaria, and poverty on an almost unimaginable scale is found. It does you no good to picture Europe as the wonder of the world: it is not. Economic growth is anaemic, unemployment rampant, and the demographics scary. No union can fix these problems. Time for Europe to join the 21st century and recognise that it is no longer master of the universe – or of its own destiny for that matter.

Norman Fielding Exeter

I do enjoy Ross Jackon’s informative rants. He has a point – and it is a good one. When 62 very rich people own more than half the world’s assets, something has gone terribly wrong indeed. However, it requires quite a leap of faith to fault globalisation. As it happens, protectionism shelters local elites that grow excessively rich by serving their home market with shoddy, yet expensive, products. No competition means no incentive to increase efficiency. No matter how you look at it, globalisation has lowered prices for all while upping quality and convenience. Why not focus instead on improving governance and the rule of law. Most of those 62 very rich guys gathered their fortunes thanks to legal loopholes, protectionist rackets, and other business strategies that pushed the boundaries imposed by law. You can’t blame them for doing that. Blame the politicians who stood by and watched passively, waiting, perhaps, for some crumbs.

Frans Schuurman Vilvoorde

How refreshing to read Ann Low’s appeal for simplicity in interactions between governments and people. She has put her finger, metaphorically, on the sore spot: bureaucracy is the bane of businesses and individuals. Judicious officials, no doubt armed with the best of intentions, often stand in the way of progress. People and businesses face red tape whenever they try to improve themselves. Often regulations aim well, but, as Mr Churchill once noted, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A more pragmatic, and streamlined, approach is necessary to do away with silly rules that discourage investment and, thus, thwart development.

Jack Hamlyn Houston

I particularly enjoyed your profile of Zena Exotic Fruits of Senegal. This company not only brings a superior product to markets around the world; it does so with flair, making sure that farmers get paid properly for their labour and that employees are treated fairly. As such, Zena Exotic Fruits shows that business practices, even in this highly competitive world, need not be predatory. I hope the company, and others like it, will continue to prosper.

Aage Frandsen Copenhagen

Rosalind Franklin (summer issue) could certainly be cranky and was often insensitive to the feelings of others. However, she was every inch the outstanding scientist – doing critical work in uncovering the double helix. I should perhaps correct the notion (referred to once again in your Science & Technology feature) that Dr Franklin was passed over because of her gender. This was most certainly not the case. The Nobel committee would have been delighted to make an award to this extraordinarily talented woman. But she died several years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were recognised. As your writer points out: the Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously.

Michael Barryson Cambridge

Do I detect a dose of positive discrimination in your summer listing of Heroes? How surprising that your editor could only come up with two male worthies. And it was a further surprise to me that the two token men were a politician soon to be rightly forgotten (Nick Clegg) and the rather odd but engaging Prince Janek Zylinski – who provided some side line entertainment at the time of the last general elec-tion. Nigel Farage may have got his comeuppance from the UK electorate but there is something more obviously heroic about this man than the other two I mention above. Time will tell.

James Crawford Bristol

I have some sympathy with Mr Romeijn’s plea for greater privacy from official eavesdroppers (Editor’s Column) but we should be careful what we wish for. Battles in the fight against crime and terror are often won because of good intelligence gathering and prompt subsequent action. Are we really so concerned about being easily noticed? If we are just going about our business in an honest way I rather doubt it. But the writing is on the wall, Mr Romeijn; things are not going your way, I fear.

Georges Brusson Paris

Saudi Arabia has long dealt with the challenge of embracing modernity whilst holding true to the traditional and enduring values of its society. Your summer issue provides a timely report on two fascinating recent developments namely, the cautious opening up of our stock exchange to foreign participation and the inevitable change now made in the way of deciding on royal succession. Your article Pragmatism as a Driver of Change closes with the suggestion that Saudi Arabia considers modernity a value to be feared. We do not fear modernity. But we do things in our own way and at our own pace. There is too much at risk for us to throw caution to the wind.

Bashir Bajbair Jeddah

Mr Marinus rightly reflects on the passing of Eduardo Galeano (Remembering a Forgotten Continent). A writer can perhaps be forgiven for being less argumentative than usual in describing a lost literary life but surely the predicament of post-colonial Latin America was not unavoidable as Galeano suggests in his seminal work. We can and must make our own choices and determine our futures.

Vitor Cardosoi Rio de Janeiro