Auteurs > Robert Presser
Par Robert Presser le 11 mars 2013
No one does an inauguration like the Americans, and it is a marvelous spectacle to watch. What made it even more memorable was the progressive, liberal bent to his inaugural address that included a broad range of initiatives from gun control to gay marriage to the preservation of Medicare and Medicaid. Whether you agree with that agenda or not, the fight with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on all of these issues, perhaps concurrently, will make for a hyperactive 2013 agenda and keep the political class fully engaged. What is not so clear is how Obama intends to deal with legacy issues from his first term on which he was barely engaged at worst (like the budget debate) or leading from behind (Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, you get the picture).
Par Robert Presser le 9 décembre 2012
The concept of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was a key element of deterrence that kept the peace during the Cold War, while the nuclear powers fought proxy wars around the globe but avoided direct confrontation. The FC was born in a similar fashion in that it represented such a vicious cocktail of spending cuts and tax increases as to be unimaginable in actual application. Conceived in the summer of 2011 as part of the agreement to raise the US debt ceiling, it was supposed to force the Republican and Democratic leadership back to the negotiating table before January 1, 2013 to strike a grand bargain on fiscal reform.
Par Robert Presser le 16 novembre 2012
You would have to live in monkish isolation to have missed the most recent Washington sex scandal involving the ex-CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer, PaulaBroadwell. This is far from Washington’s greatest infidelity scandal, nor is it it’s most consequential. What makes it exceptional is that the main actor, General Petraeus, resigned from his CIA directorship right at the outbreak of its becoming public, rather than waiting for the situation to evolve, the contours of the crisis to develop and at least make an attempt to ride the waves of public opinion to potential salvation.
Par Robert Presser le 19 octobre 2012
In the aftermath of the Quebec election, taxpayers wait with clenched teeth for a coherent taxation strategy to make up for the lost revenue from the cancellation of the tuition hikes, the abolition of the health care tax for some (with an increase for others) and the cost of the PQ’s election promises.
Par Robert Presser le 18 juillet 2012
Partygoers are familiar with the ritual at the end of a festive evening – the band announces the last song, those still up for a dance take to the floor, other revellers observe, have a last drink or finish up their conversations. When the music’s over, the band thanks everyone for coming out, the lights go up and then the staffers encourage everyone to head to the door. At least this is how it is supposed to be.
This is not the case if the party is being thrown by the debt-laden developed economies of the world, and especially those within the European Economic Community who are members of the Eurozone.
Par Robert Presser le 18 mai 2012
So far, Canadians are an easy lot to distract. The big budget lead item was the gradual increase in the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from 65 to 67 by 2023. The provinces accused the federal government of downloading since their governments will step in to support those seniors who cannot afford to lose the extra two years of federal payments. Ageing baby-boomers were upset by the change, since most had taken retirement support at 65 as an unchangeable right regardless of the fiscal ability of the government to support it.
Par Robert Presser le 12 mars 2012
Decades ago, Konrad Adenauer spoke of Germany’s postwar place in Europe when he said, “A European Germany, not a German Europe.” Since Adenauer uttered those words, Germany, together with France have been at the core of all the great initiatives to create greater European integration and cooperation – the formation of the EU, the opening up to former Eastern Bloc nations, and the adoption of the Euro. Now that the EU is in crisis over debt, deficits and currency devaluation, Germany has chosen to assert greater leadership in its own interests, effectively vetoing repeated calls to have theEuropean Central Bank act as a bank of last resort and buy up Greek, Italian and Spanish debt (as a start).
Par Robert Presser le 16 décembre 2011
The following conversation was overheard at the weekly emergency meeting of the European First Ministers prior to the G20 meeting in Cannes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were reviewing the final communiqué before meeting the press. Sarkozy (NS) and Merkel (AM) are grappling with the challenge of coming up with a solution to the Euro debt crisis once and for all, since previous proposals failed to calm international markets...
Par Robert Presser le 16 décembre 2011
As the Occupy movement clashes with municipal governments across North America and protests continue against austerity in Europe, governments, the broader public and the media continue to debate as to what these protesters really want. The Occupiers and European protestors decry the “inequality” and “injustice” of the current western economic model that has bred “excesses” thatfavoured the top one percent of taxpayers. However, most of the other 99% have not embraced the movement-why not? Perhaps an investigation of these terms will help us figure out why.
Par Robert Presser le 26 octobre 2011
Looking back on the economic aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is a difficult process because so much of it involves speculation as to what might have been. How would the US have spent, or better yet, not spent, the one to two trillion dollars required to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How much growth has been denied to the developing world because of curtailed investment out of the fear of continued attacks on first world assets abroad? What opportunities have been missed because of travel avoidance in our personal and professional lives? All of these hypothetical and theoretical alternative economic scenarios are challenging to quantify but are worth considering if we are to chart an economic course through what looks to become a decades-long war against international terrorism.
Par Robert Presser le 26 août 2011
As I write this article I cannot say with any degree of optimism that any of these struggles will produce a positive outcome. The unprecedented, multi-dimensional (military, social and economic) tumult we are currently experiencing is unprecedented in modern history outside of a major world war. Our collective ability to muddle through thus far is testament to the efficacy of modern international cooperation among developed and developing nations. Those who believe that our institutions like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank, the G20 and others are compromised and ineffectual should pause and consider what would have happened since 2008 had these institutions not provided a forum for discussion and coordinated response.
Par Robert Presser le 10 juin 2011
Stephen Harper already led the longest-serving minority government in Canadian history before his majority win on May 2nd. After five years of centrist economic management as a necessity for passing budgets as a minority government, Harper now has an opportunity to put his and the Conservative Party’s stamp on the Canadian economy for the coming decade. The question now becomes whether the government will continue to pursue centrist, incremental policies or if it will embrace several big, bold, transformational ideas to leave a lasting effect on the Canadian economy.
Par Robert Presser le 21 avril 2011
Some may recall the teachings of Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian economist (1883-1950) who advocated the concept of creative destruction. Schumpeter argued that old economic models or investments had to be destroyed in order to liberate the financial and human capital to undertake new, innovative and more profitable ventures. For the first time since the end of WWII, a major developed economy has suffered an economic calamity of the scale deserving an analysis under Schumpeter’s model. The question is whether Japan, as an economic and social society, is prepared to seize this moment to radically change its economic model, or if it will miss the moment and re-create what has not served it well over the past 20 years.
Par Robert Presser le 21 avril 2011
The revolutions taking place across Arabian North Africa are astounding for the rapidity with which they overthrew longstanding dictatorships and the confusion they provoked in Western governments. The US, UK, France and Germany had to decide when and how they would abandon the leaders they had backed for decades, and in the case of Libya the first coalition of the willing since the 1991 Gulf war was created to pound Gaddafi’s forces into retreat to allow the rebels to retain Benghazi.
Par Robert Presser le 16 février 2011
Statistics often mask a reality that is more complex than the numbers. The US has been in recovery for over a year, yet most Americans will tell you that it feels as if it has not even started. In Canada, our recession was the mildest of all the industrialized nations yet our mindset is still influenced by the slow recovery of our southern neighbour. Economists in both countries have said that employment growth is the key to sustaining the recovery; consumer confidence and, eventually, consumer spending must be strengthened via income growth overall.
Guns and money running for the exits: Timidity and introspection characterize the latest G20 and NATO summits
Par Robert Presser le 27 décembre 2010
Two important international meetings took place in November – the G20 met in Seoul and NATO met in Lisbon. While one is an international economic forum and the other is a military alliance originally conceived to prevent Soviet agression, their outcomes are linked by a lack of vigour and funding. The flaccid direction from both of these summits does not bode well for the near future of economic cooperation nor for a coordinated response to serious threats from Iran, the Taliban/Al Qaida and North Korea.
Par Robert Presser le 4 novembre 2010
A US president comes to power promising a change in foreign policy after the previous administration is discredited by overseas wars and tensions among its allies. A recent world financial crisis, coupled with increased spending on social programs has strained government spending. Upon entering office, the new president increases US military iniiatives in the hope of bringing a swift end to the fighting. Almost two years into his mandate, the mid-term elections loom and the president is facing important losses in both the House and Senate, threatening his administration’s ability to pursue its agenda. A presidency that began with so much promise has delivered little success abroad and at home, and fears the results coming in November.
Par Robert Presser le 9 septembre 2010
There are two figures readers need to keep in mind as they contemplate the possibility of boarding a 250 km/h train between Montreal and Toronto: 511 and 19. The 511 is the number of kilometers of High Speed Rail (HSR) that Brazil plans to build to link its largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro via Campinas. The 19 is the number of billions of US dollars this project is likely to cost. The Brazilians deserve a great deal of credit for not hiding the truth from their population as to the cost and complexity of the project. Creating HSR in Brazil is essential to relieving pressure from Brazil’s overcrowded airports and its decaying roads, which are overwhelmed by crowded buses that fight with the truck traffic between the two massive population hubs.
Par Robert Presser le 22 juillet 2010
Dear G20 leaders,
First of all, congratulations are in order for emerging with anything resembling a commitment to fiscal restraint at all, given the differing economic environments you are all facing. The message was simple and direct: cut deficits in half by 2013 and stabilize debt to GDP ratios by 2016. Boy, are you lucky that the majority of populist journalists ran to file the story before they read the fine print, because otherwise the solidarity you displayed in the group photo would look more like Swiss cheese. Japan gets an exemption from the debt level targets because they are still fighting deflation leftover from the last recession, and the US federal government is busy spending more, not less, to compensate for state budgets that are being slashed to the bone.
Par Robert Presser le 10 juin 2010
Visiting Shanghai in 2010 is the ultimate experience in Modern urban infrastructure. At the nearly-new international airport, you can take a MagLev (magnetic levitation) train that whisks you into Pudong at a top speed of 430 km/h. You then transfer to a modern subway system with 400 kilometers of track, 200 of which opened within the last year. Or, if you prefer, you can grab a cheap, new taxi from Pudong and travel into Shanghai across modern six-lane expressways and impressive new bridges that cross the river, one every few kilometers. This is the kind of town that big money, government money, buys for its citizenry when the state is wealthy and wants to show off to the world for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the world’s fair now underway.
Par Robert Presser le 23 avril 2010
After a year and a half of misery, things are looking up for the Canadian and U.S. economies. The stock markets are up over 70 per cent from their lows of March 2009, both economies put out five per cent annualized growth rates in the last quarter of 2009, and consumer spending is on a tear. In Canada, consumer spending rose at a four per cent annualized rate in Q4 2009 and in the U.S., spending was up 1.6 per cent month to month in March, including a whopping one per cent due to sales of autos and parts alone. Economists and governments are now debating the sustainability of such encouraging results as they plan monetary and fiscal policy for the year to come.
Par Robert Presser le 25 mars 2010
The game changing 1995 federal budget slashed transfers to the provinces and set in place five years of spending restraint. The resulting limited growth in federal government spending, coupled with falling interest rates that reduced the interest burden on Canada’s existing debt, allowed the federal government to move into surplus before the millennium and post a decade of surpluses which ended in 2009. The great shame of this period of fiscal nirvana is that it could have been even better for the Canadian taxpayer. The Liberals consistently under-estimated their surpluses and even after an orgy of last-minute spending in the final quarter of every fiscal year up until their defeat in 2006, they still exceeded their surplus predictions.
Par Robert Presser le 11 février 2010
Canadians can rarely feel smug when comparing themselves to their US
neighbors, but when it comes to our banking sector our airs of
superiority are justified. While the Obama administration contemplates
an overhaul of financial industry regulation and punitive taxation of
banking executives’ bonuses, Prime Minister Harper announced in Davos
that Canada has no intention of “micro-managing” Canada’s banks.
Par Robert Presser le 7 janvier 2010
Plutôt que d’analyser tous les détails de l’accord, l’objectif de cet article sera d’adopter une perspective à plus long terme fondée sur l’hypothèse que l’accord non-contraignant conclu à Copenhague doit être transformé en un accord contraignant et vérifiable pour la réduction des émissions à long terme. L’entente conclue entre les États-Unis, la Chine, l’Inde, le Brésil et l’Afrique du Sud contient des engagements pour que la réduction des émissions limite le réchauffement climatique à un maximum de 2 degrés Celsius, mais que veut dire cela en termes de vraies cibles ?
Par Robert Presser le 3 décembre 2009
This year has been a seesaw for the Canadian Dollar. Plunging to the 80 cent USD range during the onset of financial crisis of 2008 and retesting those lows in March of this year, our currency has recovered to trade in a relatively tight range of 92 to 97 cents US over the past two months. The recovery in our dollar has paralleled the recovery in stock markets and commodities, especially oil. Sadly, Canadians don’t look at the broader currency picture – while our Loonie is stronger against the US greenback, the USD continues to fall to ever deeper lows against a broader index of international currencies. The US is pursuing a weak dollar policy despite public statements to the contrary and Canada is along for the ride.
Par Robert Presser le 4 novembre 2009
In 1976, French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing decided that it would be a good idea to invite the leaders of the major western economic powers (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America) to an informal summit at a chateau outside of Paris to discuss their current common economic problems, giving birth to the G7. Later expanded to include Russia (G8) this intimate grouping of world powers dominated the international economic and trade agenda until the Asian currency crisis of 1997 had ripple effects around the world, making a broader consultative forum a priority to encourage cooperation with the developing world. That body was christened the G20, and today it represents nearly 85% of worldwide economic output (GDP) though 90% of the world’s countries are not at the table.
Par Robert Presser le 1 octobre 2009
According to the latest statistical data, the Canadian recession ended sometime over the summer and we will see slow growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2009. While this is likely to be a jobless recovery until sometime in 2010, Canadians believe that our conservative banking culture coupled with greater financial market regulation spared us the mortgage melt-down and destruction of consumer wealth that devastated other first world economies. While that may be the case, it does not mean that Canada is perfect on all major economic and government policy issues. This article takes a look at some major issues facing western economies and what international organizations like the World Bank have to say about Canada’s success in managing them.
Par Robert Presser le 2 septembre 2009
Since Montreal is apparently flush with cash to undertake new infrastructure projects, a study by engineering consortium Genivar-Systra was commissioned to demonstrate the viability of a 12 kilometre tramway network for Montreal. The cost is estimated at $500-$750 million dollars, depending on the scope of secondary infrastructure work that is included in the study. But what would a trip on a Montreal tramway really look like? Imagine if we could take a ride on the Guy Street to Jean Talon line?
Par Robert Presser le 6 août 2009
One could be forgiven for being optimistic these days. The stock markets are up 30% from their lows of March 2009, even taking into account the recent correction; housing starts and new home purchases showed surprising strength in Canada in June; job losses in the US and Canada seem to be slowing; lower mortgage rates and gas prices have freed up cash in consumer’s pockets and allowed more people to keep their homes; auto sales seem to be bottoming out
Par Robert Presser le 2 juillet 2009
Visitors to Havana marvel at the American automobiles of the 1950’s that have survived five decades of revolutionary communist rule to continue to ply its streets. Some are still running due to modified Russian auto parts, while other have had their lives extended by craftsmen who lovingly reproduce each fallen piece of chrome so that the autos appear as pristine as they did on Batista’s last day in the Presidential Palace...
Par Robert Presser le 2 juillet 2009
Last October this column reviewed the possibility of a trade war between the US and Canada if Obama were to take the White House. While the exact form of the dispute was not known at the time, some form of economic nationalism was inevitable as the US rustbelt demanded payback for delivering the electoral votes required to secure a decisive victory in the Electoral College. Congress crafted a stimulus package designed to create US jobs related to infrastructure and manufacturing, and in their expedient haste to curry political favour with their constituents they created the Buy American (BA) provision that related to municipal investment projects...
Par Robert Presser le 18 juin 2009
Late last week, General Motors and Ford announced a combined third quarter loss of $7.2 billion US. In other years, this would be considered catastrophic as an annual loss figure, but in the current economic context it was expected since new car purchasing in the US has fallen to a 25 year low with no sign of immediate recovery. GM has put its potential acquisition of Chrysler on hold and now all three major US automakers are appealing to the US government for $25 billion in low interest loans on top of the $25 billion handout they were previously offered for retooling their product lines...
Par Robert Presser le 28 mai 2009
Relaxing the mark-to-market rules means we will never know what the banks are really worth
The Federal Reserve’s stress test results are in and to no one’s surprise, all the big US Bank Holding Corporations (BHCs) passed. Getting a passing grade in the stress test, more formally known as the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP) was a lot like getting a passing grade in gym class – just because everyone gets by, this does not mean that all the subjects are equally capable and robust. The SCAP report indicates that 10 of the 19 largest US banks should collectively raise an additional $75 billion USD in tier-one capital in order to bolster their reserves to face a protracted recession. The report outlines the various types of assets held by the banks, including toxic assets like securitized mortgages, commercial loans and mortgages originated in-house, consumer loans and revolving credit card debt.
Par Robert Presser le 6 mai 2009
International Trade Minister Stockwell Day has returned from a goodwill trade tour of China making all the right gestures and remarks; a commitment to fight protectionism, two new Canadian trade offices to promote our goods and services in China, and kind words for Chinese officials in an effort to improve bilateral relations. There is even talk of a visit by Prime Minister Harper at a later date, a change of heart from his failure to attend the 2008 Olympics...
Par Robert Presser le 9 avril 2009
After the conclusion of what is probably the most important G20 meeting ever held, one can be forgiven for feeling optimistic. While unemployment in the US is at a quarter-century high at 8.3% and first world economies continue to contract, G20 leaders looked past their local economic miseries, resulting in an remarkable level of international commitment expressed in London. This solidarity was truly exceptional given the divergent opinions held by many going into the meeting.