Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable in any nation. There's been a lot of worry during this financial crisis that growing unemployment in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere would result in a wave of migrant job losses, forcing immigrants to return to their home countries (and back to even more precarious situations).
What's going on? Nothing very good, according to economists Julian Jessop and Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics in London. In a research note out this week, Capital pointed out that while rising inflation prior to the onset of the crisis has kept American wages from collapsing, that same inflation has also cut the value of the dollar, and so decreased workers' spending power.
As playwright Arthur Miller once observed, "an era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." That's exactly what Newsweek columnist Ruchir Sharma (who happens to have the rather impressive day job of running emerging markets for Morgan Stanley Investment Management when he's not cranking out copy for us) recently observed to me.
Give the Chinese free health care. Goldman Sachs' chief economist Jim O'Neill told me that he thinks the Chinese government's recent announcement that it plans to offer basic state health care to 90 percent of its population by 2011 is the "most important policy decision in the world at the moment." That's saying something given the slew of executive decisions being taken every other day in the U.S, Europe and elsewhere to avert recession.
As we all know by now, the only companies making serious money these days are those that sell stuff that is cheap – Wal-Mart and McDonald's were the lone stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average that ended 2008 with a gain. What's not as well known is how fast a group of new emerging market giants is coming on thanks to the recession.
A week or so ago, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao was "a little bit worried" about the stability of the U.S. dollar. Now, it appears he's really sweating it, because the Chinese just came out in favor of ditching the dollar and replacing it with a new global reserve currency system.
Maybe it's time to resurrect the idea of economic decoupling. For those who don't remember, that was the idea—much touted at the beginning of the financial crisis—that poor but up and coming nations like China, India, Brazil, and Russia (aka the BRICs) weren't going to follow the US and Europe into recession.
Before the global downturn, 75-year-old Sheldon G. Adelson, Chairman of The Las Vegas Sands Corp., was the ultimate high roller. For a time America's third-richest man, he helped rebrand Las Vegas as a family spot and turn Macau into a top gambling destination with his investments.