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Q&A: Why oil’s slide is only just beginning (interview)

Darcy Keith with Jeff Rubin, the Globe and Mail
After nearly 20 years as the chief economist of CIBC World Markets, Jeff Rubin recently left the bank to seek a larger audience for the story he wanted to tell.

His predictions of steadily rising oil prices over the last decade, including $100 (U.S.) per barrel oil by 2007, had flown in the face of conventional economic wisdom. Soaring oil prices demonstrated that the traditional laws of supply and demand were no longer working for one of the global economy’s most basic and essential commodities.

The consequences would be severe. He argued that it wasn’t sub-prime mortgages, but record oil prices that drove the world economy into its deepest post-war recession. And unless the economy starts to wean itself off an ever depleting supply of affordable oil, he believes there will be other recessions to follow as economic recoveries quickly push oil prices right back into triple digit range. But weaning our economy off oil means some fundamental changes in the way we live.

Join us for a live one-hour discussion with Mr. Rubin Wednesday at 1 p.m. (ET). Ask him his latest thoughts on oil, the economy and what it all means for investors….
(8 May, 2012)

New Social Inclusion Survey Puts U.S. On Par With…Guatemala?

Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes
When it comes to social inclusion, the U.S. comes out surprisingly low in some of the rankings compiled in a new social inclusion study.

According to a study by the Council of the Americas of countries in Latin America, of which the U.S. was included in at least half of the variables involved, the U.S. usually reaches the top 3 except on one issue, government responsiveness. Americans feeling excluded from the political process pushed U.S. rankings second to last behind Guatemala.

What really is social inclusion anyway? From scholars to multilateral banks to President Ollanta Humala of Peru, social inclusion has become the term du jour. Implicitly, most people understand it as more than economic development. It includes elements of political participation, social rights, civil liberties, and equal access—across race, ethnicity and gender—to social services and labor markets.

In a new regular feature, Americas Quarterly, the magazine of the Council, unveiled the so-called Social Inclusion Index this week as a means to measure, track and compare social inclusion in the Americas. The index will be updated every other year.

For each of the 15 variables, AQ scored 11 Latin America countries on a relative scale that they then combined and converted to 0–100 with 100 representing the highest a country could score if it were to outperform its hemispheric neighbors in all 15 variables. The U.S. was present in seven variables, scoring a relative score of just 43.3. The recession certainly hurt levels of social inclusion overall, but while political and civil rights remain high, the extremely low popular sense of government responsiveness dragged down their score…
(22 May, 2012)

The Multiplier Effect: Driving Haiti’s recovery by spending aid dollars locally

Jacob Kushner, MinnPost
Just days after a cholera epidemic began infecting thousands of Haitians in October 2010, Salim Loxley received a phone call at his desk in Port-au-Prince from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), one of the largest-spending organizations operating in the post-earthquake nation.

“We need 4.5 million bars of soap by Friday,” said the man on the other end, anxious to distribute the soap to Haitians who were living in unsanitary displacement camps and vulnerable to the highly infectious disease.

Normally such a call would go to one of UNDP’s US-based suppliers, who would truck the soap over from a warehouse in Haiti or ship it down from the States. But, as a director of entrepreneurial NGO called Building Markets at the time, Loxley had a database at his fingertips that included eleven local soap suppliers and three manufacturers who produce soap here in Haiti.

Loxley helped connect UNDP with Fritz Brandt, whose company Carribex has been producing soap, oil and other food products for local consumption in Haiti since 2004.

Carribex was able to produce and begin delivering the special type of soap UNDP needed to slow the cholera epidemic in just two days — so fast, in fact, that UNDP momentarily ran out of space to put it all.

…You’ve got the international community coming down, the UN coming down and creating a massive economic footprint on the ground with projects, programs to deliver, humanitarian aid to deliver,” Loxley said. “[The Caribbex soap deal] is an interesting story because it tells you that there is capacity in Haiti. Buyers don’t understand what’s here, they don’t trust the organizations that are here.”…