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Voice of America, 00-05-31

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: Faced with a run on Romania's biggest bank, the International Monetary Fund has delayed by up to one week its planned action on continued financial support for Romania's reformist government. V-O-A's economics correspondent Barry Wood reports from Washington.

    TEXT: The I-M-F says it is waiting to see the policy response of the Romanian government to this latest financial distress. A fund spokeswoman says the I-M-F board is likely to consider Romania's loan application soon, possibly by Friday. Both the I-M-F and the Romanian authorities say the Romanians sought the delay. No matter the reason, Keith Crane, a Washington specialist on transforming economies, believes postponement is unwise.

    /// FIRST CRANE ACT ///

    I think it is unfortunate to delay it. The Romanian government last year, after two years of dithering, really stuck to its guns and stayed current on all its foreign loans at the price of a huge drawdown in reserves, which contributed to a fall in the exchange rate and much higher inflation. It has pursued a policy of privatizing almost everything in the economy despite a lot of political opposition and despite very low popularity as reflected in the polls. So at this point in time, with a bank run underway, this is a very unfortunate time to delay I-M-F money.

    /// END ACT //

    Mr. Crane is a senior economist at Planecon, a consultancy that specializes in post-communist economies. Romania's latest distress began last week with the collapse of a leading mutual fund (National Investment Fund). The run on the state-owned Commercial Bank of Romania (BCR) began when rumors spread that it was guaranteeing the lost mutual fund deposits. The Romanian authorities blame the opposition for planting rumors to undermine investor confidence. Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu has appealed for calm and promises to personally oversee an investigation of the mutual fund's collapse. Researcher Keith Crane doubts that the bank run is politically motivated.


    The former socialists (the opposition) have scored so well in recent polls that there is really no need-- and probably no capability-to trigger a bank run. Information in Romania often comes through rumor, so the banking system is susceptible to runs. On the other hand, most of the Romanian banks that are still owned or controlled by the state have been in very poor financial condition. So it is not surprising that Romanian depositors catch fright very quickly.

    /// END ACT ///

    Romania faces elections later this year. The centrist government has planned to close its budget deficit by selling B-C-R to private investors. The I-M-F had been planning to extend its 547-million-dollar credit line to Romania for one year. (Signed) NEB/BDW/gm 31-May-2000 13:49 PM LOC (31-May-2000 1749 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: President Clinton is joining leaders of the European Union for a summit in Lisbon, which will include talks on trade, defense issues and the fight against infectious diseases. Correspondent Deborah Tate reports from the Portuguese capital.

    TEXT: Mr. Clinton and E-U leaders will revisit their long- running trade disputes over bananas and beef. U-S officials are concerned about E-U banana import policies, which they say favor former European colonies in Africa and the Caribbean over Latin American producers. The American side is also angered about an E-U ban on hormone-treated U-S beef, which the Europeans are not convinced is safe -- despite U-S assurances that it is. U-S officials believe the ban amounts to protectionism. The World Trade Organization has sided with the United States on the trade disputes. Washington has imposed sanctions on a range of European products in retaliation for the E-U policies. Trade is not the only thorny issue separating Europe and the United States. The Europeans are concerned about U-S plans for a limited national missile defense system, which they believe will undermine decades of arms-control efforts and launch a new arms race. That position has been embraced by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Mr. Clinton will meet in Moscow beginning on Saturday. Deployment of a missile shield would require changes to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. U-S officials say such a move is necessary to protect the United States against attack from what they call "rogue nations," such as Iran or North Korea. Changing the A-B-M Treaty is not the only defense-related dispute between the trans-Atlantic allies. Washington opposes an E-U plan for an all-European defense force, fearing it would undermine NATO defense guarantees. Officials on both sides say they do not expect a breakthroughs on either the defense or trade disputes. They are more optimistic about progress on a joint initiative to fight infectious diseases, including AIDS. Mr. Clinton, who has declared the global spread of AIDS a national-security threat, expressed hope for such an agreement when he spoke to Portuguese scientists on Tuesday. (Signed)
    NEB/DAT/WTW 31-May-2000 07:36 AM EDT (31-May-2000 1136 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: President Clinton and European Union leaders meeting in Lisbon Wednesday failed to make progress on long-standing trade disputes, but agreed to try to launch a new round of global trade talks later this year. Correspondent Deborah Tate reports from the Portuguese capital. Text: The United States is concerned about EU banana import policies, which it says favors former European colonies in Africa and the Caribbean over Latin American producers. Washington is also not happy about EU subsidies going to the European Airbus consortium. Europeans, meanwhile, have banned hormone-treated U-S beef. They also refuse to support a U-S program giving tax breaks to U-S exporters. All these issues were on the agenda at the U-S -EU summit, and there was no progress reported on any of them. Officials did say the disputes would be handled by the World Trade Organization. EU leaders sought to play down the divisions. The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, noted that the U-S - EU trading bloc is the largest in the world, making up more than 40 percent of global trade, and thus, he argued, it is not surprising that such conflicts would arise. But he said both sides agreed to make their disputes less public.

    // Prodi actuality //

    We decided that megaphone diplomacy will be replaced by telephone diplomacy. It is more constructive, even though it is less sexy.

    // end act //

    White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said President Clinton is not disappointed by the lack of progress on the trade matters - saying they are complicated and will require more time to resolve them. He said overall U-S - EU relations are very good, a point underscored by the President.

    // Clinton actuality //

    Far from moving apart, the United States and Europe today complete the 14th U-S - EU summit of my presidency.

    // end act //

    The United States and the European Union did agree to try to launch a new round of global trade liberalization talks - six months after a WTO meeting in Seattle failed to do so. (Signed) Neb/dat/PT 31-May-2000 16:08 PM EDT (31-May-2000 2008 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: European Union officials are calling for closer coordination in response to natural disasters. V-O-A's Ron Pemstein in Brussels reports Europe's recent experience with disasters is stirring new thoughts about how to deal with them.

    TEXT: Since last year, there have been earthquakes in Greece and Turkey, storms in France, Germany and Austria, an oil spill off the French coast, pollution of rivers in Romania and Hungary, and a fireworks explosion in the Netherlands. How does Europe react to these disasters? Civil authorities in the individual countries try to limit the immediate damage but often need outside assistance. There are more than 40 bilateral agreements for outside help, but little coordination in the way it is delivered. To better coordinate the reaction to disasters, the European Commission is proposing to E-U member nations and candidate countries that the commission coordinate disaster response. Commissioner Michel Barnier suggests -- for example, that the European Commission could assemble experts in cleaning sea birds if there is a repeat of the recent oil spill in Brittany. He spoke through an interpreter about special civil protection units.


    We've seen in the follow-up to the disaster there was a voluntary need to clean sea birds. But why can't we have a permanent unit to intervene to wherever we need it around European coastlines, so mobile cleaning units and coordination for these units, training programs, so if the need arises, if a natural disaster occurs, a storm, an earthquake, floods in the union or in Central Europe or outside elsewhere? And if a political decision is taken to respond, that it be a coordinated and joint response.

    /// END ACT ///

    Commissioner Barnier notes the European Union is assembling its own, independent military force of 60- thousand soldiers for rapid response to military crises. He asks a similar effort be mounted to put together a civil protection force. Right now, the European Commission's disaster unit has six people with a limited budget. European Union member states would have to approve any expansion of the commission's role in coordinating disaster relief. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem says European citizens are demanding a better response.

    /// WALLSTROEM ACT ///

    They want us to learn a lesson. They want to prevent such accidents from happening again. And the level of acceptance from the citizens concerning the consequences of disasters like these are becoming lower and lower.

    /// END ACT ///

    The European Commission expects to have a formal proposal by September for better civil protection. The economic costs of the disasters are high. The damage caused by storms in France at the end of last year alone cost nearly 20-billion dollars. (Signed)
    NEB/RDP/JWH/KBK 31-May-2000 09:47 AM EDT (31-May-2000 1347 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: U-S stock prices drifted lower today (Wednesday). Interest rate concerns apparently prevented a follow-through on Tuesday's big rally. V- O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed five points lower, a fractional loss, at 10-thousand-522. The Standard and Poor's 500 index lost two points. And the Nasdaq composite, after a record eight-percent gain the day before, gave back some - about one-point- six percent. Stocks wavered throughout the day. There was some light profit-taking following Tuesday's rally. Meanwhile, buyers stepped in on signals that six interest rate hikes may finally be starting to slow down the U-S economy.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    Sales of new homes in the United States fell nearly six-percent nation-wide in April. And, the index of leading economic indicators - designed to forecast economic activity six to nine months ahead - showed a bit of a decline.

    /// END OPT ///

    But trading on Wall Street generally was tentative, as investors wait for the May jobs report due out Friday. Employment data is key information for the U-S central bank, which looks for signs of inflationary pressures at the wage level.


    Analyst Art Cashin says investors are looking for clues on whether the Federal Reserve Board will push interest rates up again later this month (June):

    /// CASHIN ACT ///

    I think you do have to wait and see what comes up Friday. If the "Fed" begins to realize the combination of a choppy market and the rate rise is producing a "non-wealth" effect and a slowdown (economic), maybe they'll back off. Maybe we won't even see a quarter-point (rate increase).

    /// END ACT ///

    In other news, Lucent Technologies, the world's leading maker of telecommunications equipment, is buying a small, privately-owned fiber-optical networking company, Chromatis Networks. Chromatis was founded two years ago by Israeli engineers. It operates out of the United States, with a research and development center in Tel Aviv. The acquisition strengthens Lucent's position in the optical networking market. Chromatis makes gear that allows voice, data, and video to travel efficiently on crowded urban networks - a weak spot in Lucent's product mix. Lucent is the most widely held U-S stock. Wednesday was the last day for Microsoft to make its case in the U-S court that is poised to break the company in two. The software giant is not expected to prevail against the government's anti-trust remedy at this stage and has vowed to appeal it in a higher court. (Signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/gm 31-May-2000 16:58 PM LOC (31-May-2000 2058 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: U-S daily papers are reacting with frustration to what many call Peru's' "sham" election, in which only the incumbent, Alberto Fujimori, was an active candidate. The news is much better from Northern Ireland, where the local, legislative assembly of Unionists and Republicans is back in session, and drawing comment here. This country is dealing with yet another school shooting, and that too is in the editorials, as is the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Rounding out the commentaries are thoughts on: President Clinton's European trip; more war in the Horn of Africa; and martial law in Fiji. Now, here with a closer look and some excerpts is __________ and today's U-S Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: After the opposition candidate, Alejandro Toledo dropped out of Peru's presidential race, predicting widespread fraud, the vote went ahead anyway. And to no one's surprise, two-term incumbent Alberto Fujimori won. But the U-S press, including Ohio's [Akron] Beacon Journal, wants a new, fair, election.

    VOICE: /// OPT /// Democracy has proved inconvenient for Alberto Fujimori. In 1992 [he] ... temporarily disbanded the Congress and ... Supreme court. He contended the battle against terrorists and drug traffickers required the authority of a dictator. His words were not so blunt. The approach was. /// END OPT /// On Sunday, [Mr.] Fujimori won re-election to a third term in an election marred by irregularities. ... Even the usually timid Organization of American States [O-A-S] condemned the power play. ... Perhaps [President] Fujimori believes this moment, too, will pass, the country's democratic institutions devalued yet again to serve his interests. The international community shouldn't prove so easy.

    TEXT: In Wisconsin, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says: "Peruvians deserve better," adding:

    VOICE: Peruvians need not choose between democracy and stability; they are entitled to both.

    TEXT: The Houston Chronicle says of the vote: "... flawed it was, completely lacking credibility..." and today's [Cleveland, Ohio] Plain Dealer suggests to Washington: "...maintaining a cool relationship with the new Fujimori government would be appropriate." The Chicago Tribune laments that: "Peru's Democracy is Unraveling.

    TEXT: The news is much better in Northern Ireland, where the legislative assembly, made up of mostly protestant pro-British Unionists and mostly Roman Catholic Republicans, is back governing the country. The Unionists voted Saturday to participate, causing today's [Minneapolis, Minnesota] Star Tribune to exult:

    VOICE: Many lives have been sacrificed on the political altars of Ulster - many children orphaned and mothers left childless. /// OPT

    /// The ashes from those altars have heaped up for decades, each new spadeful engendering the next. /// END OPT /// Most in Northern Ireland now lament the folly of seeking justice with firepower, and many are ready to try ... forbearance. ... There is reason to think [Editors: understood "this time"] they mean it.

    TEXT: Says Maine's Portland Press Herald:

    VOICE: /// OPT /// The Ulster Unionists have generously agreed to return to the power-sharing arrangement under the I-R-A's terms. They deserve praise for that, and /// END OPT /// it is an encouraging sign that the peace process is moving forward. It is wasted progress, however, if the Ulster Unionists seek to change the terms later on.

    TEXT: The Washington Times says it is "cautiously optimistic", The Philadelphia Inquirer terms the latest news, "An Irish blessing," and the [New York] Daily News says now that the local government is again functioning:"...a lasting peace - however distant it remains - is within sight. Let it not be lost in the fog again."

    TEXT: Domestically, the country is dealing with yet another round of gun killings, causing this lament from The New York Times. Voice: Two outbreaks of gun violence just before the Memorial Day weekend - the brutal massacre that left five dead at a ... restaurant in ... Queens, [New York City] and the killing of a middle-school teacher apparently by a 13- year-old student in ... Florida ... showed once again the high price America pays for having too many guns that are too easily available. ... In Congress ... small but important steps on gun control remains tuck in a House-Senate conference committee, largely because of hard lobbying by the national Rifle Association. These latest high-profile gun tragedies argue for passing that legislation and moving on to stronger measures.

    TEXT: The guns along the Lebanon-Israeli border have fallen silent, at least temporarily, after last week's Israeli pullout. Surveying that scene is the Providence [Rhode Island] Journal.

    VOICE: ...[Israeli Prime Minister] Barak seems to think he has ... a different approach ... Appease the indignant Lebanese authorities whose territory has been occupied; satisfy the guerillas with what they are heralding as "liberation" through military victory; reach out to the Syrians who largely dominate Lebanon. Meanwhile, he has vowed to hold Beirut and Damascus responsible if southern Lebanon is used as a base for attacks in Israel. Will the new mainly diplomatic formula work better than the old ... one? We are skeptical, given the number of Arabs who continue to hope for Israel's eventual destruction.

    TEXT: Another border where the guns are far from silent, is in the Horn of Africa, where today's Hartford Courant calls the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea "Senseless' and "Unfathomable."

    VOICE: There are more troops involved in the Horn conflict than anywhere else in the world. And the fighting is close to the Straits of Hormuz, through which passes much of the world's oil. This is not a war that other continents can long ignore.

    TEXT: President Clinton is in Europe this week, for a series of meetings on trade, and then a face to face conversation with Russia's new President Vladimir Putin. Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union advises Mr. Clinton: hold out "An olive branch," but:

    VOICE: ... he does not need to be deferential. ... [He] should urge [President] Putin to put reforms in place that will get the ailing [Russian] nation back on track. ... Foreign policy has been the weak spot of this administration and handling the Russians is a formidable challenge. If [Mr. Clinton could move the process forward ... it would be an accomplishment worth noting.

    TEXT: In the pacific, Honolulu's [Tuesday afternoon] Star Bulletin is concerned about the imposition of martial law in the Island nation of Fiji, following a coup.

    VOICE: Fiji is on the verge of denying the Indian community its political rights, which would amount to a disaster for democracy. Regrettably, even the most respected segments of the ethnic Fijian community have let their conflict with the Indians take precedence over democracy and the rule of law.

    TEXT: And finally, in Texas, one of the nation's largest dailies, The Dallas Morning News is watching closely what happens in Shiraz, Iran, where 13 Iranian Jews are on trial for what the West believes are trumped up charges of espionage for Israel.

    VOICE: Sadegh Nourani, the world is watching. So far, however, the Iranian judge does not seem to care. He has not opened up his Revolutionary Court to any diplomats, human-rights advocates, reporters or relatives of the 13 Jews on trial ... What is more, no official charges have been presented ... and under Iranian law, Mr. Nourani is also the case's prosecutor. He literally stands as judge and jury. ... At the least, Ayatollah Khamenei needs to ensure a fair appeals process. Human dignity demands it. So does his country's future.

    TEXT: With that plea for judicial fairness, we conclude this sampling of comment from the editorial columns of Wednesday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/RAE 31-May-2000 11:35 AM EDT (31-May-2000 1535 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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