Sunday, July 31, 2011

Is it time for a new superpower?

Frankly speaking, I love the US. I have been there quite a few times before the financial crisis and the vibe of the country is amazing. The sheer expanse of land and the call of “FREEDOM!” in the air is almost intoxicating. Seeing as the American economy is an economic powerhouse that wholly embraces consumerism, I have always been content in having Americans “run the world”. However, several recent events have led me to reconsider and seriously question that.

In what can only be described as a display of American control over the world economy, a liquidity shortage in the US banking system sparked off the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The havoc that it caused is common knowledge – bailouts, bankruptcy, unemployment and uncertainty dominated the news. Countries struggled to pull their economies together. While some, such as China, managed to ride the crisis unscathed, others like Iceland were not so lucky. The crisis was of such an epic proportion that it spawned a debt crisis in the Euro zone that leaders are now struggling to contain.

Few predicted the widespread damage the greed of Wall Street caused. However, even as America is in the midst of trying to revive its stubbornly bleak economy, the antics and rigid bureaucracy of the White House threatens to engulf the economy in yet another crisis. This time, the repercussions are a lot clearer.

On 2nd August, America will run out of funds and will have to default on payments to one of its debtors. Instead of focusing on the problem at hand, however, the Democrats and Republicans have managed to embroil themselves in a deep argument with little room for compromise. If they do not reach an agreement soon, it is likely that many will lose confidence in the dollar and cause a slew of other problems for the world economy.

This entire fiasco has made me question how sensible it is for the world to let America lead things. The insatiability and excesses of Wall Street has already dealt a heavy blow to the foundations of the world economy. The Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided over almost every issue. Even when it threatens the livelihoods of their people, they are unable to put aside their differences to come to an agreement. With obstinately high unemployment rates, deepening debt and not to mention a war that is hemorrhaging money, America seems ill positioned to lead the world out of darker times.

Perhaps it is time for a new leader to be handed the reins. Any takers?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Football and beer - a winning combination?

I participated recently at a football tournament which took place inside Beer fest Asia 2011 in Singapore. What struck me was that it has become such easy an association - beer and football. A strange mix of a healthy option of playing sports, while on the other hand associated with alcohol that is a root cause of illnesses.  Let’s take a step back and think about this strange association!

In which way does the association go? It is widely agreed that beer companies target football viewers. The three most popular beer brands in Singapore, Heineken, Carlsberg and Tiger, all target the male football fan as an important part of their advertising campaign. However, to a lesser extent, sports clubs bring newcomers to their clubs by offering alcohol. An example hereof is a certain organization in the US which wants to make football -or for them ‘soccer’- popular by associating the product more with the sport by offering “soccer newbies” free beer while introducing them to the sport.

Should we allow such a strong connection between alcohol and football? Is it justified that large beer companies sponsor sports events and major leagues? It is clear to see that their advertisements encourage people to consume more beer. A similar case to this one existed between F1 and cigarette companies. Even though, through public pressure, an advertisement ban has been imposed on this sponsorship, F1 still found other willing backers. In France there is already such a law which bans most alcohol advertising.  

The association of beer and football has become an easily made association and it is interesting to think about its implications. Should beer manufacturers be more conscious in how they channel their advertisement or should we take our own responsibility in what we consume? Where is the line between a healthy and responsible state and a nanny-state?