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Finally, a deal ... but is it any good?

EUROCOIN.KOMMISSIONEN.jpg European negotiations are always a treat to follow particularly when it has to do with the decision on the recurring seven year budget deal. This case is no exception ... as reported by The Economist's global agenda the negotiations mirror an environment of anxiety where the possibility of not striking a deal really was not a plausible outcome.

"After the popular rejection of the proposed EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, the acrimonious break-up of budget talks in June, and multiple setbacks to economic reform (symbolised by the German election result), most European leaders were anxious for any budget settlement."

But what can we really take away from this deal then ... ?

On a personal note I am dissapointed yet not particular surprised that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) largely is left untouched. I feel confident that the time of the CAP is drawing to an end but I could have wished a more firm stance. But in an intergovernmental arena tangled up in discriminatory rebates (sorry mates) and the devotion to cohesion policy I wonder whether we should not be happy that a deal was finally made.

What is also interesting from an intergovernmental point of view is that the old Franco-German axis seems to be broken with the ascession of Angela Merkel which actually ended up stealing a lot of Mr. Blair's thunder in cutting the final deal.

See also this artice from FT which provides an overview.  

As always there are also some nice discussions over at the Fistful of Euros

See these posts;

Edward Hugh - Posted before the deal was cut, but with a nice perspective and some good comments.

Doug Merril - Discusses the presidency institution mirrored in the UK presidency's difficulties to cut a deal.

Emmanuel (guest AFOE writer) - This post is an excellent overview and asessment of the budetary deal and its remnifications.  


A take on aid policy that might actually work

aids.victimsbarder.jpg Admittedly, I should have blogged this two weeks ago when Owen Barder posted it on his blog. However, when it comes to solving the massive health issues of developing countries most notably in Africa a couple of days' delay is not important.

What am I talking about then ?

When discussing world health the cruel and essentially intolerable facts are that people in Africa are dying of diseases which we, as a race, have been able to cure for many decades. This invokes two strings of thought in my mind. Firstly I am ashamed because the perspective of 1000 children dying in Africa of an illness I could potentially have had a 1000 times does not fit in with my view of the world. Secondly and more pragmatically I ask ... what can be done about this?

In his role as a senior associate at the Center for Global Development (CGD) Owen Barder and his colleagues have come up with a new solution to the tricky question of how to get pharmaceutical firms to develop the quantity of medicine and also the vaccines necessary to at least push a region as Africa in the right direction.

See their proposal here

The idea centers around a sort of government aided commodification of vaccines. If the market for vaccines gets big enough maybe the pharmaceutical cooperations will have the incentive to pick up the pace.

" (...) markets are too small, even though these vaccines would be a hugely cost-effective way to save lives in developing countries.  To solve this, rich countries could offer a guarantee: If a company can develop a vaccine for a disease like malaria, we will pay for it to be bought in large quantities in developing countries.  This creates strong commercial incentives for the biotech and pharmaceutical industry to accelerate the development of vaccines that will save millions of lives a year in developing countries."

Now, is this what we want or is it merely a display of cynical Anglo-Saxon profithunting ?

I believe the proposal is brilliant because it does not imply the ultimate naivity that the crisis in Africa will solve itself through one odd pharmaceutical firm's sudden CSR frenzy to save the world. Rather, the proposal implicitly acknowlegdes and essentially tries to exploit the forces of the market. And as such I see it as adaptive and original.     

Luckily for Owen Barder and his team I am not the only one approving this project. A report by the Italian finance minister Guilio Tremonti based on the CGD's work is also now being endorsed by the finance ministers of the G-7 group through this communiqué.

We can only hope that the proposal brings succes and ultimately a solution to one of mankind's biggest issues.


The right tools for web 2.0

Usually, I restrict myself to to write about subjects such as economics, business and finance but I also reserve the right to tap into web 2.0 (see also my post on web 2.0's downsides) and the general nature of the blogossphere whenever I stumble something interesting; after all ... that is ultimately the community of which all bloggers are a part of. This time I am trying to characterize the general blogger and consumer of web 2.0 ... what tools does he/she use and why?

As in so many posts before the idea is not my own; I stumbled on two posts by Jordon Cooper and Nick Denton using my watchlists at Technorati in which they describe their view of the best web 2.0 tools out there; go check out Jordon's post here as well as Nick's post here.

Now, lets get down to it ... Here are my favourite web 2.0 tools and as you will see there are a lot of repetitions from those of Jordon Cooper and Nick Denton.

Squarespace Every blogger needs a place where he or she can get their blogs published. It has to be easily managed and cheap yet powerful and good looking. The first thing you need to understand is that in order to reconcile these objectives you will have to pay for the service, not necessarily much but payment cannot be avoided. Squarespace is the perfect tool in offering a good, cheap and powerful service but I know that Typepad is also a favourite amongst many bloggers.

Gmail - My own mail is Hotmail but this is only because the switching costs are too high for me - Gmail is the service out there and it is free.

Skype - This tool is revolutionary in the sense that it offers free voice communication with anyone in the world. I have no problems seeing the potential here yet I have still not gotten a mic so my account is for the time being useless; I know ... stupid! - Creating you own database on the web! If you learn to use this tool and embrace as your reference on structuring information on the web you won't potentially have to visit a library ever again ... ! Ok, perhaps a bit over the top but it is wonderful.

Flickr - I don't yet have an accout myself but in terms of picture sharing and as a proponent of the open source internet environment it represents the quintessence of web 2.0 in my opinion. Remeber to use it as an alternative to google images.

Bloglines - Don't know what RSS, Atom, and XML feeds are ? Well it all has to do with web syndication obviously. Still lost? Well, Bloglines can answer all your questions and also help you organize your preferred blogs and news sites on the web. In your effort to keep taps on your favourite blogs you will find that it is the best there is. It is the most important point of reference for me when I go hunting in the blogoshere for interesting topics.

Technorati - The best things always come at the end. Technorati is like google for weblogs ... plain and simple. No other blog search engine exists that can hold a candle to this one.


I have shown you mine; now, show me yours.