US House passes $800 billion stimulus package, Senate next; Chinese PM attacks "blind pursuit of profit"; Afghan presidential elections postponed; Somali MPs to elect a new leader tomorrow; and more
Top of the Agenda: U.S. Stimulus Plan
The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed an $819 billion economic stimulus plan that President Barack Obama has touted as a central element in his strategy to revive the U.S. economy. The Washington Post reports the plan passing the House is a major early victory for Obama, despite the fact that the bill faced stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers. Obama and some of his supporters had launched a major lobbying effort to win bipartisan support for the package, which is one of the most expensive pieces of legislation ever passed through Congress, but the The Hill reports the vote still split along party lines.
Obama now must turn his focus to the Senate, where debate on the proposal is expected to begin Monday, and where the package's price tag is thought likely to increase to $900 billion or more.
Analysis of the package remains mixed, both in the media and among scholars at universities and think tanks. A new CFR.org Backgrounder profiling the package says the vast majority of economists now support some form of economic stimulus, but also points out several potential risks posed by the current package. The New York Times has a news analysis saying some of the bill's effects would be felt within weeks of the legislation's passage, but also noting that gauging the overall effectiveness of the measure is a complicated question. The Wall Street Journal reports that despite Obama's intentions, the package may well still get bogged down with perks for special interest groups. Still, analysts note the high risks of not doing anything, given the dire economic climate. An article in today's Financial Times says the economic pain suffered in 2009 could be the worst in sixty years and that as many as 50 million people could lose their jobs worldwide.
PACIFIC RIM: Economic Questions
Speaking at Davos, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao blamed debt-fueled consumption (FT) for the economic crisis, deflecting criticism that Chinese currency manipulation helped feed the problem. Xinhua has the text of Wen's speech.
S.KOREA: Yonhap reports Seoul will scrap as many as 1,300 government regulations on business during the first half of 2009 in an effort to boost the country's competitiveness internationally.