Countries to Watch in 2018 (Pt. 2)

Countries like the United States, Russia, Turkey and Germany will probably receive a lot of media attention in 2018. However, there are many other countries worthy of note in the coming months. Similar to last year, we once again present to you eight countries that should not stay under the radar this year. Last week, we published the first part – today, we discuss the last four countries. (Featured Image © PhotoGraham)

Men at work on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, © Jacey Fortin

Trouble on the Nile in Egypt – Willem Theus

2018 will most likely be a crucial year for Egypt. The presidential election in March seems set to become controversial. Current President and former Army General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has seemingly curtailed most of the opposition, even though he himself has not yet officially declared to run. A last minute surprise is still possible, but it seems that Mr. Al-Sisi will remain in his office for a little while longer.

A minor regional conflict might well erupt between Egypt and Sudan and Ethiopia; certain Gulf monarchies are already picking sides

More problematic is the worsening economic and social situation in Egypt. The country has suffered from waves of terrorist attacks, causing imploding tourism numbers and scaring away possible investors. In December, a UNICEF report claimed that the amount of people living in poverty has doubled since 2000.

In this setting, one must look at the deteriorating relations with Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to open this year. Egypt argues that this dam will alter the water flow of the Nile, the lifeline of the country. The tensions brought about by the construction of this dam may become the ultimate way to distract the Egyptians from the worsening internal situation. A minor regional conflict might well erupt; certain Gulf monarchies are already picking sides.

Melkøya island near Hammerfest, the endpoint of the undersea pipeline that transports natural gas from gas fields in the Arctic Barents Sea, © Joakim Aleksander Mathisen

The Correlation between Oil and the Norwegian Economy – Marleen van der Straten

Norway is, after Russia, the biggest oil exporter of the European continent. Oil has a significant impact on Norway’s economy, currency, as well as its society. Yet, there is a strange duality when it comes to the country’s attitude towards fossil fuels. On the one hand, Norway is a place where people value the environment and do a lot to curb carbon emissions. On the other hand, they are considering exploring new oil fields in the Arctic Barents Sea.

There is a strange duality when it comes to the Norway’s attitude towards fossil fuels

This duality in regard to oil exploitation and its gains is illustrated in recent reports about the Norwegian ‘Oil Fund’. This sovereign wealth fund, put in place to finance pensions, invests surplus revenue from the petroleum industry. Recently, this large player in the financial world proposed to no longer invest in fossil fuel industries.

In December 2017, the Norwegian Krone (NOK) reached a near all-time low, in large part due to falling oil prices, on which it is highly dependent. Some observers claim that the Krone will appreciate again, and even expect it to be a top major currency in 2018. However, not everyone concurs as there are many potential spoilers in addition to the significance of oil prices. The question is: will economic growth pick up before the end of 2018?

Rohingya refugees crossing the Bangladeshi-Myanmarese border, © Tasnim News Agency

Bangladesh, Troubles at Home and Abroad – Tarak Martijn Labiad

Once a poverty stricken country, Bangladesh has now achieved a higher GDP per person than Pakistan and averaged more than 6% of annual growth over the past ten years. While a lot of progress has been made, several domestic concerns remain.

For one, working conditions remain a massive problem. Furthermore, despite being a unitary Westminster style democracy with universal suffrage, the government-backed security forces have often flouted constitutional principles.

Given Bangladesh’s record of forced repatriations and its refusal to officially designate the Rohingya as refugees, it remains to be seen whether they will receive just treatment

Pressure on Bangladeshi society has further increased due to the Rohingya refugee crisis. Subject to ethnic cleansing, over half a million refugees have crossed the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh. Because of the never ending stream of refugees, many refugee camps have turned into overcrowded spaces where living conditions have deteriorated. Moreover, the yearly monsoons and other natural calamities contributed to the present squalid conditions in the camps.

Given Bangladesh’s record of forced repatriations and its refusal to officially designate the Rohingya as refugees, it remains to be seen whether they will receive just treatment. In general, will the Bangladeshi government be able to continue handling this domestic and foreign pressure?

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, © Eneas de Troya

Mexico on the Verge of Political Turmoil – Gersán Vásquez

On July 1st, Mexico will elect a new president for a six-year term. The early front-runner is the leftist and two-time presidential runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador. His success in the polls is partly due to a series of corruption scandals that have hit the administration of the ruling President Enrique Peña Nieto.

A victory of López Obrador would impact the regional political panorama, especially after leftist governments such as Argentina and Brazil have recently swung to the right. The future of the new president will be partially determined in the following days. This week, Mexico, The United States, and Canada will restart the penultimate round of the renegotiation to update the NAFTA.

A withdrawal of one of the parts or even a postponement in the negotiation would create uncertainty and discourage foreign investment and therefore reduce economic growth and employment.

A victory of López Obrador would impact the regional political panorama, especially after leftist governments such as Argentina and Brazil have recently swung to the right

The Aztec country is the second largest economy of Latin America and its political and economic stability is vital for a region that is expected to grow 2% this year. The newly elected president will also face the challenge of reducing the outrageous level of drug cartel related violence.

Will Mexico turn to the left? What will be the consequences of the NAFTA negotiations? Will the strategy to fight drug cartels change?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of International Perspective. Please be advised that all works found on International Perspective are protected under copyright, more information in the Terms of Use.

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