Category Archives: Emerging Markets

The Ultra-Orthodox World Hits Hollywood

It’s not every day that Israeli television makes it into the American news. But recently, Marta Kauffman, producer of the outrageously popular “Friends,” has announced that she will be producing a US remake of the Israel TV drama “Shtisel.” Certainly “Shtisel,” and its focus on the Ultra-Orthodox Shtisel family in Jerusalem, doesn’t seem like a theme that will grab America’s attention.

Hollywood seems to disagree. In 2003, Daniel Taub created and wrote “The Rebbe’s Court” which was a series focused on the lives of members of a Hassidic dynasty in Tel Aviv. Until Daniel Taub’s portrayal, most depictions of the ultra-orthodox were stereotypical and two-dimensional. Daniel Taub discussed the challenges that he faced when writing the show as he said,

“The producers wanted me to put some secular characters center stage for the largely secular audience to identify with. I insisted that the goal was to bring the viewers to connect emotionally with people from a very different world, and thankfully we were able to do this.”

Taub’s series was eventually bought and broadcast by Channel 10 and was a hit with both the secular public and the ultra-orthodox. As Daniel Taub explained, “In one episode of the series, a secular song is sung by one of the actors at a Shabbat meal. I was surprised to learn from one Hassid that this was now a regular Shabbat song in his community.”

Since this groundbreaking work, “Almost Touching,” “Kathmandu” and “Shtisel” have all become hits. Such hits, it seems, that America is now gearing up for their own “Shtisel” with a top Hollywood producer. Wonders never cease.

 

 

US Business Urging Obama and Congress to Engage PM Modi on Economic Issues

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi at Government Buildings, Dublin on September 23, 2015. Picture courtesy of Narendra Modi.

The Alliance for Fair Trade with India is pressing President Obama and Congress to move forward with the US economic relationship with India, taking advantage of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US scheduled for June.

The Alliance, which represents a broad rand of businesses from manufacturing to pharmaceuticals, has sent letters to the president and congressman saying that Modi’s visit is an important event which should include discussions about crucial commercial issues which are harming India’s ability to grow its trade economy.

“We hope you will use this visit to engage with the Prime Minister to advance both discussions and concrete action to produce a stronger and more-promising U.S.-India commercial relationship,” the Alliance wrote.

“A strong and vibrant U.S.-India relationship is beneficial not only to our two countries, but also to greater growth and opportunity throughout the world.”

Miami Business Opens Office in Cuba

La Habana. Photo from Wikipedia.

The International Port Corp, a Miami-based shipping company, is the first US company to open a staffed office in Cuba since restrictions on US trade with Cuba have been eased.

A number of companies have applied for and have been given licenses from the US government to open operations in Cuba, but so far only IPC has followed through. Owner and President of IPC, Larry Nussbaum, said that his company rented a warehouse in Havana from the government of Cuba. It is staffed with six employees who were hired by a Cuban government employment agency. IPC pays the employment agency.

“The opportunities are great. Cuba is open for business,” Nussbaum said. “Now we need the American legislation to make it legal for companies like mine to expand what we can legally do in Cuba.”

IPC was first awarded their license to ship between Miami and Havana in July 2012 on humanitarian grounds. Since that time Nussbaum has expanded his company to also include commercial shipments and cargo for diplomats, by air and sea.

Despite the lifting of restrictions there has not been a serious upsurge in shipments to Cuba because Cuba is not buying too much from the US right now. The main problem is that the US embargo does not allow the offer of credit to Cuban purchasers of US products, so there is no competition in the market.

“The growth of my business is dependent on the U.S. making more activities legal,” Nussbaum said.

IMF Warns of Global Economic Slowdown

The International Monetary Fund is warning that the risk of a global financial crash is on the rise due to China’s economic slowdown and a concomitant decline in world trade. This double-headed decline has the effect of de-stabilizing emerging economies which are burdened with large debt.

The IMF, the Washington-based lender of last resort, explained that because of the large scale borrowing by emerging market countries with debts which are highly susceptible to increased interest rates, policymakers need to act fast to strengthen the financial system.

The cautionary statements come after a difficult summer of global market chaos caused by China’s currency devaluation, instituted to increase its export flow. That action set off a panic reaction in world-wide markets, which crashed. Investors suddenly understood the real meaning of China’s economic slowdown.

Earlier in the week the IMF lowered its prediction for global growth in 2015 down to 3.1 percent. That number is the smallest since the low point of the 2009 downturn.

World Bank Bracing for US Rise in Interest Rates

US interest rates, which have been hovering near zero for about 6 years, are expected to rise as the US economy continues its slow but steady recovery. The World Bank is closely watching what the US Federal Reserve will do, and when, and is expecting when that day finally does arrive, developing economies might be in for some hard times.

The hike in interest rates could come as early as this Thursday, when the Fed winds up a policy meeting. In a report issued by the World Bank they warn that such a rise could have a modest impact on developing countries, but also adds that there is a chance that the fall-out could be worse.

The World Bank has several reasons for their concern. They believe that a rise in interest rates could interfere with capital flows into developing countries, which can lead to stifling of economic growth, which could then lead to financial instability.

Despite their warning, they also site several reasons to be optimistic. First of all, any increase in interest rates will happen gradually, allowing developing economies to cope more easily with any changes. They also point out that any changes in rates will happen within the context of a strong, growing US economy, which usually bodes well for the global economy in general.