USA-Europe, a new beginning

1657.jpgDecember 2009 | Jose Maria de Areilza, Dean IE Law School

Obamaâ??s success opens a window of opportunities for Europe, but it also brings challenges as we find out how capable the old continent is of performing alongside its US partner.

Barack Obama´s election to the presidency of the USA may be a defining moment not only for his country but also for the international projection of the European Union and its member states. The transformational figure of the President-elect, to use a term coined by Colin Powell, will have two immediate effects on the watered-down relations between Europe and the USA. On the one hand, eight difficult years of tension and division, especially in the area of politics and the military, are now wiped off the board; on the other, the economic interdependence of the transatlantic community has not stopped growing, as shown by the financial crisis itself. The new White House will no longer classify Europeans into new and old and certain Europeans will have no reason at all for defining themselves as anti-Americans. Those who spread the word of anti-Americanism have suddenly been left behind and, for a few months at least, we will not have to listen to a choir of European politicians preaching to the USA on how to do things better from a the moral high ground, but incapable of practising what they preach.

As the best observers explain, we are witnessing the greatest public relations coup in the history of the USA and the best example of a hegemonic countryâ??s instant recovery of legitimacy or ´soft power´ ever seen. Barack Obama symbolises a new generation, a new way of doing politics based more on stories and emotions than on ideologies and parties; he also embodies an aspiration to global citizenship. His election not only breaks down racial barriers, but also makes his country and the American dream attractive again all over the world, something that is the opposite of what the Bush administration achieved during its eight years in power. It is true that the new president awakens such expectations on our continent that he will undoubtedly be unable to fulfil them, first of all because in many areas of security and foreign policy, the USA policy that has been in place since the fall of the Berlin Wall will continue. Indeed, the USA will continue to look towards the Pacific and pay less attention to a Europe that is less relevant in the current reconfiguration of world power. However, with the election of Barack Obama, the notion of the West begins to be more appealing, not only on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Talent-development, the driving force behind economic growth

1649.jpgDecember 2009 | By Cristina Simon, Professor at IE Business School

Attracting and leveraging talent is the challenge now facing Peru if it wants to keep up the sustained economic growth of the last decade.

There is no doubt that a country´s economic development is linked closely to the evolution of its labour market. The problem that so often arises is the difference in speed of both concepts. At the present time, Peru is a magnificent example of this lack of synchronisation between the economy and the human capital that is there to keep it in place. As a result, a ´talent voidâ?? alert has recently appeared and could slow down the so far unstoppable force that has driven the country down a road of sustained growth for almost a decade.

The continuous progress of an economy generates an often very brusque change in the type of human capital that is required. This need for more intellectual work has become more evident in Peru in detriment of unskilled labour: in 1993, the EAP (economically active population) comprised 50% unskilled workers (with no academic qualifications or with primary education only), but the proportion fell to 26.2% in 2007. This figure clearly shows the shift in employers´ requirements and the need for trained, employable personnel, a concept that was christened with the name of ´talent´ in the United States at the end of the 1990s.

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The crisis and the future

1654.jpgDecember 2009 | By Manuel Romero, Professor at IE Business School

The subprime mortgages unexpectedly sparked the financial crisis, but the resulting raging fire took hold because there was so much more fuel lying around to add to it. How can we rise from the ashes?

The first thing to be considered is the background to the crisis and the essential causes of it. Perhaps the best example has been the strong sensation of liquidity experienced by all the players on the market, which has led to excessive leverage and a significant undervaluation of the risk associated with excess debt and a significant overvaluation of assets that has given rise to clear consequences that include a lack of coherence and macroeconomic consequences such as negative saving rates in the USA and investment records in China in excess of the GDP. All the market analysts expected the system to break down as a result of macrospeculators such as the hedge funds and the CDS (Credit Default Swaps), but neither of the two originated the crisis.

The origin of the crisis actually came from an unexpected trigger, more specifically, the heavy default produced by ´sub-prime´ mortgages, which were none other than loans awarded to the so-called ´NINJAs´, i.e. people in the USA with no income, no job, and no assets, that had been securitised, which means that those who awarded the loans just sold them on the market, in many cases leaving nothing showing in their balances. One of the surprising aspects is that a market as small as the sub-prime mortgage market was the detonator of this entire situation.

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