Oil at the heart of Nigerian politics

The Nigerian economy risks being brought to a virtual standstill by the current national strike. The country’s influential trades’ union movement has opted for all-out industrial action in response to the removal of fuel subsidies by the federal government in Abuja. The subsidies cost the government an estimated $8 billion a year; a huge sum in comparison with the total federal budget of just over $22 billion. Given that the country needs massive investment in infrastructure and social services, Abuja’s stance seems entirely reasonable, but the dispute is far more complicated than it may seem. Continue reading

Burmese breakthrough

British foreign secretary William Hague’s recent visit to Burma is just the latest in a long line of events that suggest that the south-east Asian nation is preparing to come in from the cold. Ruled by a military dictatorship for almost five decades, the government had resisted pressure from the West to allow multi-party politics and halt human rights abuses. Sanctions were imposed by Rangoon’s opponents but Chinese, Indian, South Korean and Thai firms continued to invest in the country. Continue reading