Russia is now ranked alongside Zimbabwe on the worldwide corruption index, despite the fact that the Russian authorities have been doing their best to tackle it. The Russian bribery ‘industry’ is worth some $300 billion per year and those who can be bought include several government officials.
The Russian economy is in much need of foreign investment, but the growing world of bribery is deterring international businesses from investing in Russia. Not only will they face the costs of building and running the business, but they are also likely to face substantial costs in trying to get the paperwork through, as IKEA found. Having said that they would never resort to bribery, IKEA had to pay $4 million for investment in local infrastructure and donate a further $1 million for local government projects just to get the 300+ permits they needed to begin construction. This then led to further bribes and a number of lawsuits. For some companies, the delays caused by not paying a bribe may actually cost more than the bribe itself.
The following webcast and articles look at the case of IKEA and the push by foreign businesses to avoid the clutches of Russian bribery.
Russian bribes culture hits international business BBC News (14/5/10)
Foreign firms pledge not to give bribes in Russia BBC News (21/4/10)
IKEA masters rules of Russian business The Moscow Times (14/5/10)
Russians are spending twice as much on bribes Prime Time Russia (13/5/10)
Corruption Perceptions Index 2009 Transparency International 2009
- Why is Russia in need of significant foreign investment? How would it help the economy?
- Can we classify IKEA (or any other company that uses bribery) as a risk-lover? Explain your answer.
- If a foreign firm wants to invest in Russia, which type of expansion do you think would be the easiest and the least open to bribery?
- IKEA began building without the necessary permits, but then ‘the bureaucrats took advantage of the situation’. Was IKEA operating under conditions of risk or uncertainty?
- In the article ‘IKEA masters rules of business’, Lennart Dahlgren said: “If we had waited to receive them all, we would have lost years”. What economic concept is being referred to?
- To what extent is government intervention and international co-operation needed to tackle corruption in Russia?
To mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the BBC World Service commissioned a survey across 27 countries to gather people’s views about capitalism and whether it is working well. The findings are striking. Only 11% felt that it is working well. “Most thought regulation and reform of the capitalist system were necessary. There were also sharp divisions around the world on whether the end of the Soviet Union was a good thing.”
The following articles look at the detailed findings of the poll and consider its implications for the functioning and reform of the world economy.
Global poll: Wide dissatisfaction with capitalism 20 years after fall of Berlin Wall BBC Press Office (9/11/09)
Free market flawed, says survey BBC News, James Robbins (9/11/09)
Wide dissatisfaction with capitalism, years after fall of Berlin Wall Dawn.com (Pakistan) (9/11/09)
Capitalism confronted with growing doubts Global Times (China) (11/11/09)
The fall of the Berlin wall – Pt 1 (video), The fall of the Berlin wall – Pt 2 (video), Al Jazeera (on YouTube), Riz Khan (9/11/09)
Column : Why Berlin was a win for all of us Financial Express (India), Lord Desai (Emeritus Professor, London School of Economics) (9/11/09)
The real lesson of 1989 is that nothing is ever settled Guardian, Seumas Milne (12/11/09)
The Wall fell and hope rose – for a while Otago Times (New Zealand), Andrew Rawnsley (10/11/09)
New name for a new economy? BBC News, Stephanomics (13/11/09)
- What are the alternatives to free-market capitalism?
- Do you agree that “however flawed free-market capitalism is, it is still the best of all systems”? Explain your answer.
- In what ways does free-market captialism fail to provide the optimum allocation and distribution of resources?
- What forms can government intervention take to influence markets?
Many industries are struggling in the current climate and, in particular, car sales have been at an all time low. General Motors was the biggest car company in the world, but recently we have seen them becoming the biggest industrial bankruptcy, which will have consequences for many car manufacturers around the world. UK car sales were 25% lower in May 2009 than at the same time last year and Chrysler will sell most of their assets to Fiat when they form a strategic alliance in a bid to help them exit bankruptcy protection.
The troubles of the carmakers have passed up the production chain to automotive suppliers, component manufacturers and engineering firms, and down the chain to the dealerships at a time when consumer confidence has taken a knock. The following articles look at some of the recent developments in the car industry and consider their likely economic impact.
UK new car sales 25% lower in May BBC News (4/6/09)
Creditors cry foul at Chrysler precedent The Wall Street Journal, Ashby Jones, Mike Spector (13/6/09)
The decline and fall of General Motors The Economist (4/6/09)
GM pensioner’s fears for future BBC News (1/6/09)
Opel staff face wait for job news BBC News (2/6/09)
From biggest car maker to biggest bankruptcy BBC News (1/6/09)
GM sales executive lays out company’s direction Chicago Tribune, Bill Vidonic (14/6/09)
Chrysler and Fiat complete deal BBC News (10/6/09)
Fiat gambles on Chrysler turnaround Telegraph, Roland Gribben (1/6/09)
Obama taskforce faces Congress over car industry rescue Times Online, Christine Seib (10/6/09)
Has pledge of assistance revved up the car industry? EDP24, Paul Hill (10/6/09)
- What is a strategic alliance and how should it help Chrysler?
- What are some of the methods that governments have used to help stimulate the car industry? Consider their advantages and disadvantages.
- Think about the consequences beyond the car industry of the decline of General Motors. Who is likely to suffer? Will there be any winners?
- General Motors was established in 1908. How were they able to expand so quickly and what do you think are the main reasons for their current decline?
- The article in The Economist suggests that, despite the current problems in the car industry and the global recession, selling cars will never really be a problem. What do you think are the reasons for this?
The current financial crisis had led to Keynesian theory coming back into fashion. Governments all around the world have put in place a significant fiscal and monetary stimulus to try to mitigate the impact of the downturn. But is this really Keynesian policy at work? Keynes argued for permanent and tough controls on the financial sector to allow the government to pursue a policy of full employment. It would be difficult that current policies are therefore pure Keynesian policies, so is there an economic theory vacuum with market economics discredited, but Keynesian economics not really taking its place? The article below looks at how economic theory has changed in recent months and considers whether we need a ‘new’ Keynes.
Wanted: the Keynes for our times Guardian (22/12/08)
- Explain the difference between classical and Keynesian beliefs with respect to government intervention in the ecoomy.
- Analyse the extent to which the recent policy stimulus has been Keynesian in nature.
- Discuss the changes that have taken place in economic policy during 2008/9 in the context of economic theory.
An ongoing debate in economics for many years has been the extent to which governments should intervene in the economy. The debate has re-emerged in recent months with the global financial crisis as many commentators have arged that had a tighter regulatory system been in place, it could have helped to prevent some of the poorer lending practices of banks internationally. Even the recent G20 meeting (dubbed Bretton Woods II by some analysts) discussed regulatory reform of the international financial system. The two articles below look at this debate about the extent of government intervention from two very different angles. The first is from the perspective of Victorian England and Little Dorritt, while the second (by Peter Mandelson) looks at how globalisation and the financial crisis have informed the debate about state intervention.
So much for ‘late’ capitalism Guardian (24/11/08)
The future active state Guardian (4/12/08)
- Examine the advantages and disadvantages of greater state intervention in an economy.
- Discuss the extent to which globalisation has changed the need for the amount of state intervention in an economy.
- “Strong social welfare systems and redistribution can be contributors to economic growth.” Discuss the extent to which this statement will always hold true.