NATIONAL DAY OF DISSENT NAVALNY LEADS ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN RUSSIA Russia’s national day will be marked today by anti-government protests organised by Alexei Navalny. The 41-year-old anti-Putin crusader has expressed hopes that “a wave” of demonstrations will engulf 150 towns and cities. Tens of thousands of people are expected in Moscow, St Petersburg and Ufa.
NATIONAL DAY OF DISSENT
NAVALNY LEADS ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN RUSSIA
Russia’s national day will be marked today by anti-government protests organised by Alexei Navalny. The 41-year-old anti-Putin crusader has expressed hopes that “a wave” of demonstrations will engulf 150 towns and cities. Tens of thousands of people are expected in Moscow, St Petersburg and Ufa.
Mr Navalny wants to challenge Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential election. However, an embezzlement conviction—which the opposition leader insists is politically motivated—is likely to prevent him. Instead, Navalny has organised a social media-driven anti–corruption movement that seeks to attack Putin and his cadres.
The goal? To raise Navalny’s profile and force the Kremlin to allow him to contest the election or risk mass protests and civil unrest.
By executing a polished social media strategy of targeting young and middle-class voters disillusioned with modern Russia, Navalny’s support has grown. In March, he organised tens of thousands to turnout in 90 cities—the largest protests seen in Russia since 2012.
But Mr Putin remains extremely popular. His approval ratings haven’t dipped below 80% since 2014 and he’s unlikely to be unseated anytime soon. Expect scuffles, arrests and a few headlines but little else.
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SEALING THE CRACKS
SOUTH KOREA’S PRESIDENT SEEKS MONEY FOR JOBS
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will speak to parliament today in a bid to convince lawmakers to approve $10 billion of additional funding to create 810,000 public sector jobs.
With unemployment at 4%, jobs don’t appear to be a critical issue, especially considering the South Korea’s slowing economy. Growth has dropped from 3.3% in 2014 to 2.8% last year and is forecast to fall further as regional competition and an ageing population hit.
But dig a little deeper and cracks begin to emerge: the jobless rate of those aged between 15 and 29 sits at 11%—almost three times the national average. Moon received strong support from young voters, who felt his plan for more public-sector jobs represented their best hope.
But the new administration has failed to fully articulate how it will fund the $10 billion needed for new jobs, something Mr Moon is expected to address in today’s speech. Vague references to “strengthening taxation for the rich” and “higher fines for unfair practices” suggest South Korea’s large companies are likely to foot the bill.
Moon will have to be convincing. His party lacks the parliamentary majority needed to pass the spending bill itself, and both conservative parties (Liberty Korea and Bareun) appear to oppose the changes, meaning the president will have to rely on the centrist People’s Party.
INDIAN FARMERS DEMAND DEBT RELIEF
Today, farmers in the Indian state of Punjab will follow their colleagues in other parts of the country and protest to demand debt relief and higher prices for agricultural goods. Security forces will be on high alert after violent protests in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and western Maharashtra left at least a dozen dead last week.
Farmers were inspired by PM Narendra Modi’s promise to waive debt in Uttar Pradesh, a pledge made in February during that state’s election campaign. Other BJP-governed states are now following, with Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh also launching debt relief schemes. The domino effect threatens to undermine state budgets. The Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch forecasted that the cost of the entire program over the next two years could reach $40 billion.
Farming is big business in India. More than half of the 1.3 billion population is employed in the agriculture industry. But as other sectors of the Indian economy grow—particularly services—farming is becoming less important. Today, agriculture makes up just 14% the Indian economy’s value, down from more than 30% in the early 1990s. Regardless, to keep the hundreds of millions of agriculture workers onside ahead of the 2019 polls, the ruling BJP is likely to push ahead with the costly debt relief measures.
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The European Parliament’s Economic and Legal Affairs Committee will vote on a draft law that requires large multinationals to publish data on where they make profits and how much tax they pay on a country-by-country basis.
The environment ministers of G7 countries will wrap up two days of talks in Bologna, which have been overshadowed by the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The talks will highlight transatlantic differences, with a German spokesperson suggesting its delegation will be looking for a “more concrete” commitment to global climate policy. While the US is represented by climate-change-sceptic Scott Pruitt, the likelihood that the European and American contingents will see eye-to-eye is low, although some headway could be made on issues such as resource efficiency and the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.