Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top geopolitical risks to watch for

Synopsis of Eurasia Group's Top Risks 2015 

1 - The Politics of Europe
Europe's economics are in substantially better shape than at the height of the Eurozone crisis. But the politics is now much worse. That's true on three different levels: bottom-up, intra-EU, and outside-in.

2 - Russia
Last year, we highlighted Russia as one of the top risks to global security--that was before Moscow carried out the most brazen redrawing of European borders since World War II, and then fell into a severe currency crisis. The conflict with the West over Ukraine has crystallized a newly aggressive and explicitly anti-Western Russian foreign policy. Western sanctions, a sagging oil price, economic stagnation, and the ruble's plunge are weakening Russia economically and financially, though not driving it to the point of crisis. 

3 - The Effects of China Slowdown
We're quite optimistic about China this coming year. President Xi Jinping has consolidated an extraordinary amount of power since ascending to the presidency. He has launched policies long overdue to rebalance the economy, pushing ahead on improving air quality, pursuing a series of measures aimed at making state-owned enterprises more efficient and spearheading a massive anticorruption campaign within the Communist Party.

4 - Weaponization of Finance
The United States remains the world's only superpower, but Washington is now using its influence in important new ways. After World War II, American dominance was established by the forging of us-led alliances such as NATO and multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank that enshrined US-authored rules and standards.

5 - ISIS, Beyond Iraq and Syria

In 2015, ISIS faces setbacks in its core bases in Iraq and Syria, but its military power remains significant, and its ideological reach will spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It will grow organically by setting up new units in Yemen, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, and it will inspire many jihadist organizations to join its ranks. Ansar Bayt al Maqdas in Egypt and Islamists in the Libyan city of Derna have already pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

6 - Weak Incumbents
Political risk stemming from weak incumbents who recently won reelection will weigh on key markets in 2015. With the important exceptions of India and Indonesia, the wave of emerging market elections in 2014 saw incumbents win underwhelming victories. Sluggish growth and mounting popular demands were not enough to displace ruling party candidates in Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, and Turkey, and are unlikely to do so in Nigeria in 2015.

7 - The Rise of Strategic Sectors
In 2015, success and failure for business will depend increasingly on governments. For decades, the perception was that multinational companies were developing greater autonomy from policymakers, both in their home governments and in the countries where they operate, eroding state authority to regulate the flow of goods and services around the world. Instead, government influence is expanding, focused more on political stability than on economic growth.

8 - Saudi Arabia vs. Iran
Saudi-Iran tensions will spike during 2015, worsening the Sunni-Shia sectarian rift across the region.
The relationship will be especially volatile this year because: 1) there will be an unprecedented number of theaters of proxy conflict 2) domestic politics in both countries will enhance conflict and 3) the evolution of diplomacy on Iran's nuclear program, regardless of the outcome, will provoke more strife between Riyadh and Tehran. 

9 - Taiwan/China
Relations between China and Taiwan will deteriorate sharply in 2015 following the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) landslide victory over the ruling nationalist party in November's local elections. Taiwan's political class will focus overwhelmingly this year on throwing elbows at one another ahead of the 2016 presidential election. President Ma Ying-Jeou is already a lame duck, and we expect no progress toward an agreement with China on any form of trade liberalization.

10 - Turkey
For the second year in a row, Turkey makes our list. Lower oil prices have been good news for this country, but that's about all that's going well. Heavy-handed rule, short-sighted political decisions, and bad foreign policy bets will all conspire against Turkey. At home, Erdogan has used election victories in 2014 to ensure decisive defeat of his political enemies (of which there are many) while remaking the country's political system to tighten his hold on power.

Red Hearing 1 - Asia Nationalism
Red Hearing 2 - The Islamic State
Red Hearing 3 - Petrostates
Red Hearing 4 - Mexico

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