Argentina – United Kingdom
Tensions between Argentina and the UK over the status of the Falkland Islands are likely to increase as Argentine Foreign Minister Timerman vowed to take legal action to stop energy firms from exploring for oil and gas around the islands.
Armenia – Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s claims that two of its soldiers were killed close to the disputed breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh highlights that relations with Armenia remain tense and sporadic violence will continue along the lines of contact.
Protests are expected in major cities, including Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi, as trials continue for those who are accused of atrocities during the 1971 independence war.
Attacks by criminal groups, similar to 4 February’s assault on a bus in the southern city of Navegantes, are likely to persist as the police continue to disrupt drug traffickers.
The conclusions of a six-month official investigation into a bus bombing in Burgas in July 2012, which named Hizbullah as being behind the attack, will increase pressure on the EU to designate the group as a terrorist organisation.
As negotiations between FARC and Colombian officials continue in Havana, it is likely that the rebel group will continue further offensives aimed at pressuring the government. This is especially likely as some of FARC’s demands, which include the legalisation of coca, marijuana and poppy plantations, are unlikely to be met.
Egypt is likely to issue restrictions on imports and may look to limit currency convertibility, in an attempt to prevent the further depletion of foreign currency reserves. Such measures are unlikely to be effective and the country is headed for an economic crisis soon unless it secures international financial assistance.
France – Germany
As the French economy weakens, it is likely that Hollande will continue to push for policy to weaken the Euro. Germany is likely to continue to oppose moving away from a free floating exchange rate and policy difference between the two countries may harm diplomatic relations.
While authorities in Orissa suspended plans to purchase land for South Korean steel firm Posco, due to pressure from local residents, the economic importance of the project suggests that the government will restart land acquisition soon.
Indonesia’s strong economic performance could be at risk due to a turn towards protectionism and the political leadership’s reluctance to implement needed economic reforms that may upset entrenched interest groups ahead of the 2014 elections. Endemic corruption will also prove a major challenge for the country’s political leaders throughout 2013.
Renewed talks, expected to begin on 26 February, between Iran and world powers over the country’s nuclear programme are unlikely to result in significant progress. This is particularly because elections are scheduled for June, making it hard to get all parties to agree to anything that could make the Iranian regime look weak.
Persistent instability in neighbouring Iraq and Syria means that the refugee population will likely rise rather than fall over the coming months, putting an additional strain on housing. If trading routes with Syria are constrained by the unrest it will also push up the price of many basic goods. The rising cost of living, coupled with gradually rising unemployment could also stoke sporadic economic protests. Islamist groups are likely to continue to utilise this dissatisfaction to gain support for further protests against the government.
Security in the country’s major oil regions will continue to a be a priority for the government, however they will be unable to guarantee security at sites in the south of the country at least over the coming year, particularly given the levels of instability in areas such as Sabha and al-Kufra, and the general lack of security presence in the country’s border regions.
Unidentified militants killed three North Korean doctors in the town of Potiskum. The medics were found dead in their accommodation; one had been beheaded. Although no group claimed responsibility, Boko Haram are active in Yobe state. Near Kano, militants also killed nine Nigerian polio vaccination workers on 8 February. Boko Haram reject Western education and medicine and medical staff in northern Nigeria are therefore at risk.
Pakistan’s exploding short term debt and violation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation act means that a fiscal crisis in the next year is becoming increasingly likely.
Papua New Guinea (PNG)
By parliament passing a bill to extend a ban on votes of no confidence to 30 months into a government’s five-year term, PNG prime ministers are likely be able to focus more on policy, rather than becoming entrenched in money politics to appease those politicians who threaten to support no confidence motions.
Labour reform measures, including raising the minimum salary threshold for foreigners with professional qualifications, aimed at tightening the influx of foreign skilled and unskilled labour into Singapore are likely to harm business in the city-state. The ruling People’s Action Party will likely continue to push forward with similar populist measures, especially as their support falls.
While UN officials noted improvements in Somalia’s humanitarian situation, the country’s problems are still far from over. The country remains unstable with al-Shabaab still in control of rural territories, and without building up resilience to future shocks the country could suffer from another famine.
Leader of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Moaz al-Khatib stated on 10 February that he is willing to talk to representatives of President Bashar al-Assad in rebel-held areas in the north of the country, in an attempt to end the current conflict that has so far killed over 60,000 people. Al-Khatib stated that the talks would be aimed at finding a way for Assad to leave power with the minimum of bloodshed and destruction. Al-Khatib’s plan remains constrained by opposition within the SNC, particularly by Islamist elements.
On 9 February, thousands of Islamists marched in the capital Tunis in a show of strength aimed at the current moderate Islamist government. The rally came a day after the funeral of assassinated secular politician Chokri Belaid drew the largest crowds seen in the capital since the unrest that led to the overthrow of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. The demonstration highlights the growing divisions in Tunisian society that have hampered political progress since the revolution.
Officials announced on 8 February the devaluation of the bolivar by 32 per cent in order to reduce the budget deficit after the 2012 presidential campaign. While the measure was anticipated, the announcement faced criticism from the opposition and raised accusations of economic incompetence. Panic buyers crowded in fear of price rises, which may kick in after the devaluation takes effect on Wednesday. With President Chavez’s indefinite stay in Cuba, pressure on Vice President Maduro’s temporary leadership will continue to increase.
Source: AKE (United Kingdom)