The 10 crises you aren’t expecting but should be (Part 2)
By Ian Bremmer The first five "fat tails" are detailed in the entry below. Here are the second five. Again, each of these scenarios remains unlikely. But in each case, the impact of the global economic meltdown on a particular state’s real economy has dramatically increased the likelihood of a fat tail occurring — from 2 ...
By Ian Bremmer
The first five "fat tails" are detailed in the entry below. Here are the second five. Again, each of these scenarios remains unlikely. But in each case, the impact of the global economic meltdown on a particular state's real economy has dramatically increased the likelihood of a fat tail occurring -- from 2 percent or 3 percent six months ago to 10 percent to 20 percent over the next several months, a serious enough concern to warrant focused attention.
By Ian Bremmer
The first five "fat tails" are detailed in the entry below. Here are the second five. Again, each of these scenarios remains unlikely. But in each case, the impact of the global economic meltdown on a particular state’s real economy has dramatically increased the likelihood of a fat tail occurring — from 2 percent or 3 percent six months ago to 10 percent to 20 percent over the next several months, a serious enough concern to warrant focused attention.
6. Turkey’s secularists lash out
Reinvigorated by their solid performance in recent local elections and still seething over last year’s failed bid to close the ruling justice and development party (AKP), Turkey’s opposition secularists in the military, media, and business elite are emboldened to try again, launching a public campaign to build opposition to the ruling party across the country. A sharper-than-expected economic contraction provides them with a new political opportunity to take on the AKP in the courts.
Weakened by the AKP’s own poor election showing, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan struggles to manage the nationalist and radical Islamist elements within his party. Convinced that his political survival depends more on party unity than on building consensus across the political class, Erdogan overplays his hand by trying once again to amend the constitution. The high court orders closure of the AKP and bans Erdogan from office. Turkey then finds itself in an institutional crisis that brings policymaking — and the country’s bid to join the European Union — to a grinding halt in the middle of a recession. Foreign investors abandon ship, moving capital into less risky markets.
7. Argentina opens up
Fat tails can offer opportunities as well as risks. That’s the case in Argentina. There the global recession could unravel the country’s economy. The government’s inability to manage the fallout would push its poll numbers sharply lower, persuading advisors to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to advance the date of legislative elections from October to June to allow her allies a chance to face voters before the opposition gets organized and the economy deteriorates further. The president’s husband, former president Néstor Kirchner, would head the government’s legislative list.
Against the backdrop of spiraling social discontent, President Kirchner’s Peronist party loses its lower house majority, and Néstor Kirchner would finish behind dissident members of his own party in Buenos Aires. The president resigns, and Vice President Julio Cobos becomes president. Kirchner’s departure opens new policy possibilities. The Cobos government reduces state interference in domestic markets, removes restrictions on the farming sector, and improves the transparency (and therefore the credibility) of the national statistics institute. He signs an agreement with the IMF and promises to resolve the country’s outstanding debt problems, quelling fears of default. This leads to a serious improvement in market sentiment.
8. The emirates disintegrate
The weakness of existing federal institutions has pulled back the curtain on a serious problem — Emirati leaders haven’t been able to respond in a coordinated way to the financial crisis. Abu Dhabi has jumped in to recapitalize the other emirates, but its strong moves to extend political control could push angry royals in Dubai, Ras al Khaymah and Sharjah, to look for future opportunities to reassert their independence.
Under this scenario, once the financial crisis passes, the smaller emirates try to kickstart their economic programs, provoking a federal veto. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai tries to reestablish his economic autonomy by launching new infrastructure projects without the approval of Abu Dhabi’s al Nahayan family. Abu Dhabi then blocks Dubai’s negotiations with international partners, damaging Dubai’s credibility and humiliating its royal family. Sharjah tries to restart talks on gas imports from Iran and Ras al Khaymah considers the same option. The Abu Dhabi-dominated federal government opposes the process. The smaller states then create a new federation or simply become independent states, and the UAE federation ceases to exist. The weak institutionalization of federalism and the UAE’s increasingly personalized politics make this scenario not quite as unlikely as it seems.
9. Japan’s policy paralysis
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will likely lose control of the lower house of parliament, the chamber which selects the prime minister, in an election that must be called by September 10. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will likely win a majority of seats outright and form a new cabinet or a large plurality and forge a coalition with independents and LDP defectors.
But the more worrisome scenario involves the DPJ failing to win a majority of lower house seats, creating a chain reaction of party schisms that paralyze the coalition building process. The LDP loss aggravates already bitter internal rivalries, splintering the party that has ruled Japan almost continuously for more than 50 years. Internal battles over policy also plague the DPJ. If more conservative DPJ members form alliances with former LDP members, the DPJ could fall apart as well, further complicating the coalition-building process at a moment of economic uncertainty.
Japan is then ruled (as it was during the mid 1990s) by a fragile and fractious multiparty coalition that can’t advance reforms needed for response to the economic crisis, deregulation, and foreign-policy priorities like reinvigorated relations with Washington, undermining Japan’s value as an economic and security partner. This scenario provokes anxiety over the future strength of the Japanese economy and its security alliance with the United States. It then takes several years for the country’s leading political parties to redevelop along ideologically coherent lines.
10. Poland runs off the rails
In Poland, the Civic Platform (PO)-led ruling coalition has successfully promoted a moderate, pro-market, pro-western agenda and has become one of Eastern Europe’s most stable and capable governments. But under this fat tail scenario, the global economic outlook pushes Poland into a severe recession. Following an anti-market, anti-foreigner, and thinly veiled anti-banking/anti-Semitic electoral campaign, the populist/nationalist Law and Justice party (PIS) takes power in 2011, and the country turns inward. The new government blames capitalism (as well as the west in general and PO in particular) for all of Poland’s ills. Its policy agenda is economically statist and culturally intolerant and nationalist.
The PIS-led government asserts control over a broad range of state and quasi-state companies in sectors like energy, mining, and banking/insurance. Officials appoint boards of directors for these companies based less on competence than on political loyalty. Poland withdraws its commitment to join the eurozone. The government scores domestic political points via attacks on both the EU and Russia — with negative strategic and economic consequences. PIS launches corruption "witch hunts" against former communists, PO party loyalists, and foreigners, destabilizing Poland’s economy and generating capital flight.
Click Here for The 10 crises you aren’t expecting but should be (Part 1)
Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. He is also the host of the television show GZERO World With Ian Bremmer. Twitter: @ianbremmer
More from Foreign Policy
Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?
The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.
It’s a New Great Game. Again.
Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.