Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: South America

Yes, the Brazilians are still the centerpiece of South American economic growth, yet there are competitors arising. While Venezuala faces a period of uncertainty with the potential replacement of Hugo Chavez, Argentina offers a renewed challenge to the Falklands under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: Europe

Europe reminds many historians of conditions during the 1930s. Economically depressed countries are embracing extremist political parties with racial divide, riots, and anger as the symptoms. Currently, most of the population is aware of the European debt crisis. Although a serious as the economic crisis is, the side effects of lower economic output can be more serious.

Americans and their Guns

To stray from the Predictions of 2013 series, I did an infographic of the gun control debate raging in the US, along with some statistics. The objectives of Obama gun control rules come plainly from the White House publication on the topic. As one can see, the proposed regulations are quite practical.

Alexonomics' Outlook for 2013: Africa

Egypt has often been the focus of news in Africa as of late. The removal of Mubarak and election of Mohammed Morsi has proven to be an interesting turn of events, but the excitement is far from over. Morsi symbolically removed ties from the Muslim Brotherhood, but that move hardly removes the influence the party has on the President.

A guide to Environmental Economics

Often, articles will be conclusions with a few supporting facts that will often sway the reader. I find this problematic for two reasons. First, the reader does not have the chance to fully understand the topic because no background is given. Secondly, the reader doesn't really have an opportunity to disagree with the writer's conclusion if the reader has little to no knowledge of the topic.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Reflections on Young Fatherhood: Lucky Me

Editor's Note: This is a guest post written by Matt Henry, a comedian. These views do not necessarily reflect this publication, and are the views of the writer. To reach Matt Henry, email him at Lucky Me.
So I flew to close to the sun, and had my son when I was 19 going on 20. To be honest I was more afraid to tell my mom that I was going to be be a parent then actually becoming one. There was never a point in time where I thought about bailing. At the time I was “in love” with the girl I was having this child with and more importantly me having a son was a chance to get my shot.
A shot that I never had. 
I have my step dad who I consider my dad, but I never met my actual dad until I was like 19. So I felt so fortunate to be having a son because now I could do all the things with him I never did with my dad - and I do. 
The fact that I was young never phased me, I always liked the idea of having kids young. There are parts of it that are really sweet. Because our age gap isn't huge, I feel I’ll always be able to relate to him on things and learn as he learns, continue to grow as he begins to grow. I feel when the generational gap is to wide it may be difficult to relate on things from the Dad to son, because 15 and 55 I can only assume your into different things. 
The only thing that I envy older dads for I think is the fact that they are established and have money. I know you’re not supposed spoil your kids, but it’s something I take pride in. Respect is always there, however if I can get him something extra for my little guy, I will. 
I got lucky with a boy I know that. I would have welcomed a daughter.However, then I would have had to join the gym. With a son I feel like I have a tag team partner for life. And with all great Tag Teams there is leader. Then the leader gets old and the apprentice has a fantastic solo career. 
I'm addicted to attempting to set a fantastic launching point for my son. It’s because of him that I crave to be the best version of myself, so that he can use my shoulders if need be to make himself even better.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Answering the Riddle of Relationships

Editors Note: This blog is usually devoted to political issues, financial issues, world events or closely related topics. The following is off topic from the blog's content, and does not reflect the opinions of Alexonomics.

Most commonly, humans talk about events, issues, politics, sports, ideas or interesting facts. One topic has been left from that list, and that is relationships. Probably the most intense subject of conversation is the story behind the lives of others. Gossip, tall tales, airing the dirty laundry, defamation, slanderous babble often peak the interest of many. Participation in this conduct is widely spread, even by those who you would think not too interested. It's this reason why reality shows that document the supposed inside lives of people who society feels are interesting continue to be popular.

Cosmopolitan may give bad relationship advice to
keep their audience coming back. Decent business model.
These stories always are about an association, friendship, relationship - some sort of affiliation. Obviously, everyone has an opinion on how to engage in what used to be called courtship. Fortunes have been made banking on humanity's favourite subject. Cosmopolitan regularly gives their mostly female readers advice on relationships stating that to have a great relationship you should not "be BFF's" with one's partner, and to "grow your tolerance" of one's partner's downfalls. Ask Men tells their mostly male audience that friends and family, or persistent suitors are the biggest relationship killers.

Relationship advice does not only come from conversations or publications, but is also widely discussed on internet forums such as the the Reddit Relationship Advice subreddit to simple Yahoo questions from frustrated lovers. Interestingly enough, so called pick up artists teach males on how to impress and seduce their female victims.

It seems among all this discussion, debate, advice, analysis, venting, and deliberation, that no one actually has an actual answer for how to conduct a relationship.

To begin looking at an answer, science offers a glimpse. Recently a study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences found men's brains have a greater neural connection from the back of the brain to the front. This allows men to focus better, and hypothetically superior at learning a single ask and performing a task. According to the National Post, this allows men to navigate directions better than a female. In opposition, a female brain has more connectivity between the left and right hemisphere, allowing women to have better memories, and are supposedly more collaborative.

Basically, the study reveals females are more analytical while men are quicker to act on their perceptions. This means men could be more prone to make more rash decisions while women take their time to make an assertion by gathering evidence. Either way, the study reveals that the different genders have different methodologies of conducting themselves. Something that has been known by most humans since the beginning of time.

However, even if the difference between the genders brains could pose a serious problem to interconnection; the sorcery of a little thing called love begins the mutations of both genders. Science can tell us biologically why humans have allurement toward each other. If one looks towards Charles Darwin, evolutionary instincts toward procreation play a large part in attraction.

These instincts create quite the change, as the brain of someone supposedly in love looks a lot like a person who is on cocaine.

Maybe Rob Ford is just in love.

Cocaine lowers the threshold of pleasures centres in the brain, which is similar to one who is smitten by some special somebody. Basically, someone who has certain feelings toward another finds joy in even the smallest events during the day and begin to view a more romanticized world. Pain centres fire less, so one becomes less agitated. The chemicals that can be released by simply even looking at someone who holds a special place in one's heart (or more accurately - brain) are dopamine and Norepinephrine giving motivation to be with the loved one. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, is released during sexual acts or even more romanticized actions such as holding hands or looking into another's eyes. It is suggested that the continual release of oxytocin from these activities strengthens the neural bond between a couple, which means couples that stray from physical activities together may become less intimate. Additionally, couples in love have lower levels of serotonin, which means messages between one part of the brain and another may be slower. Unfortunately, this could mean neural circuits associated with the way people assess others may be suppressed.

Scientifically, love has been broken down to its biological realisms. The preceding paragraph could explain many different situations. Someone in an abusive relationship may not leave their partner because of lower levels of serotonin reducing their discernment or may be simply craving the chemicals released when their loved one is near. A relationship that slowly fades may be the result of less physicality and thus lower chemical releases which slowly erodes the neural connection between a couple. Or, someone who is spending more time with their significant other and ignoring their traditional social venues is simply creating a stronger neural bond and satisfying their addiction for more love hormones. 

Additionally, science can explain the continual relationship advice conversations that appear anywhere from on the train to work to social media venues. People are less sure of themselves because they realize their behaviour is less than normal. As a result, advice is sought. Over analysis, hair-brained theories, breakdowns of the smallest action, and intense scrutiny are often the result of this. However, it is important to receive the opinions of others in a relationship situation, as one may be blind to the faults of their affection while others not under the love spell will be able to see clearly.

Until geneticists discover the perfect algorithm for perfect couples, humans have simple trial and error to continue their quest of finding the one they will procreate with. No advice is perfect, and often over thinking can completely reduce one's mental capabilities to a state of turmoil. For once, this blog offers no conclusions or answers to have the perfect relationship as the sample size is too large and different to assess and find the perfect relationship recipe. Simply ask one question to oneself to determine whether you should continue a courtship.

Am I happier than I was when single?

Answering that question may be simple, but acting on it will be tougher.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Miss America: Solving the Issue of Ignorance


Hate, ridicule, antagonism, spite, malevolence, resentment.

All these words are relatively nasty little combinations of letters that have been used quite recently to describe the negative reaction of some Americans to the appointment of the new Miss America. It brings to mind the late Christopher Hitchens asking “What is it you most dislike?” and proceeding to answer his own question with “Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition”.  
The new Miss America - born and raised American and aspiring to be a doctor.
Hitchens should have followed up.

Yes, stupidity can be quite frustrating.  Comments of terrorism, association to radical Islam, and the geographic faux pas placing India as an Arabic country were all made because the new Miss America has a higher concentration of melanin than some would prefer. Yes, stupidity can accurately describe some of the comments made over social mediums. The quote from Hitchens implies we should hate this kind of stupidity. Dislike it. Fight fire with fire and initiate public shaming to those who make these statements.

However, hate usually doesn’t work.

Public shaming of individuals does little. It brings unwarranted publicity creating unnecessary controversy and anger. Hate does little to address the actual problem that is being displayed from these comments. These ignorant comments are the result, not the cause. To counter this problem, the cause must be addressed.

Aristotle stated that “all human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion and desire”. If Aristotle is correct, the cause of these actions lie within one of these seven words. It is arguable that it is nature. Many of the comments most likely came from individuals who have not been exposed to new surroundings, a different environment, and thus different persons.  Understanding begins with experiencing, and ignorance is the offspring of unfamiliarity.

So instead of initiating a hateful response of ridicule to those who stated such ridiculous comments, a proper response would be to broaden the minds of those of those who cannot understand how one who has a darker pigment can be American. Education of the matter is not enough. Perspicacity can only be accomplished through collaboration and interaction, not through chortling at others mistaken assertions.

The new Miss America has already stated that she will answer the hostility by rising above it. Rather, she may be more successful in engaging those who are ignorant. Challenge those who have not met those who have a different skin colour. Focus on the commonalities that make not just all those born in America, American - but all those born as a human a part of mankind.

As a famous writer once said, “our true nationality is mankind”. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Result of Every Nation Abolishing their Debt

Some readers have asked what would occur should every single government in the world just abolish, or default, on their debts. Although the answer may be simple to those who understand the global economy, for most it is quite a real question. If every single country in the world just decided to default on their financial obligations, the following would most likely briefly describe the general result. 
What if this was all eliminated? 

  • First realize that there are different governmental levels. Federal, State (Provincial) or Municipal (city). Each level has debt and obligations in the form of bonds. We’ll assume for the sake of the scenario that each level of government decides to default on their obligations completely wiping out their deficits and budget shortfalls.
  • This would wipe out the bondholders. Who are they exactly? Well institutional banks, international organizations such as the IMF or World Bank, could be another layer of government loaning to another (Federal to State/City does happen), personal investors, or even charities in the form of trying to keep a fund alive.
  • Why do you care? Well, banks invest the savings of their customers. This would completely wipe out the savings of most of the population, and destroy bank’s ability to issue credit. Why is credit needed? For almost everything from beginning a business, to buying a new car on payments, to buying a house with mortgages, you get the point. Bank’s would have a lot less liquidity and would essentially stop loaning.
  • International organizations who have now no fire power to help around the world with problems such as natural disaster to supplying rebels with the ammunition to overthrow their tyrannies would cease to exist. Why? They simply would have no money.
  • Personal Investors and people who invested in the bank or government bonds would see their entire life savings wiped out in most cases. This would flood the job market with anyone who was retired as they would be forced to work again.
  • The job market would be non existent as there would be no liquidity. Credit is used on a daily basis by millions of corporations around the globe to conduct daily business, like manufacturing plants securing parts in to continue production. Without credit this fiat currency based economy does not run. The money multiplier effect would cease to exist. The bank runs that would occur would destroy all banks. 
  • Governments may be debt free, but no one in their right mind would lend them money again. This would cut funding for many programs from Health Care, Welfare, to basic stuff such as police and fire fighter services.
  • With cutting to all these services as the government could not raise money from issuing bonds, the job market destroyed, bank runs causing the destruction of financial institutions, little taxation revenue, chaos would ensue.

    In simple terms, the above would be the answer to the question. The chain reaction should all governments default on their debt would be catastrophic, and most likely reset global economic activity a decade. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Look at Ontario's Debt

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The India Series: Look Both Ways

Tacitus was a senator and historian of Rome which spent most of his career under the Emperor Domitian. Often, Tacitus would write his histories with a distinct distaste for politics due to his exposure to corruption, and is quoted "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws".

If one can associate numerous laws with a rather baffling large bureaucracy that has been ranked the worst in Asia, then according to Mark Twain India has a corruption issue. Indians seem to agree, as 75% of Indians has said that corruption has increased in the last two years in a report by Transparency International. Additionally, 47% of Indians felt corruption was a serious problem while 75% stated that the police were affected by corruption.

To turn the statistic into harsh reality, an anecdote is needed. Bihar,a state in northern India with five billion dollars to be invested in the power sector, has come under scrutiny for their mid day meal program. Basically, a program provides 1.2 million students in government run schools with a hot meal everyday. Twenty three children have died eating contaminated food from the program, which is a result of corruption according to the convenor of Right to Education forum Ambrish Rai - which is one of the NGO's working in the area. Rai stated that the southern states do a far better job at administering the program, but in the north the situation is "pathetic":

"Children are getting low quality and insufficient food; hence there is lack of nutrition. Corruption is involved in the delivery system. Fake enrolments are being done to embezzle money. These rackets are killing this very important scheme, and the main reason is lack of guidelines and institutionalisation,"

Indian scandals are not a rarity. One article lists 25 major corruption scandals from 1948 till the present in India. Seven have occurred in the last two years alone. The Lokayukta, which is an anti corruption agency in India, had 11,153 allegations of corruption from 1981 till 2006 finding only 57 offences which were of consequence. Although recently the Lokayukta caught a clerk accepting a $120 bribe, the Lokayukta has a rather dismal record of slowing corruption. In fact, there is an entire site devoted to corruption in India, called Corruption in India, which lists stories everyday showing less than upstanding conduct portrayed by Indians. 
An article in the Time of India gave some recommendations to fix bureaucracy such as linking
compensation to competence, subjectivity in appraisal process, and fixed terms for bureaucrats.
The analogy of comparing India to a one way street that is necessary to look both ways is solidified by the economic system. Although foreign investment is stalled in the one way rules and regulations of Indian bureaucracy; should one look the other way and offer a bribe, business can operate a fair bit more efficiently. An interview by NPR in 2010 of Mr. Singh stated the depravity of the situation. Mr. Singh began a telphone/internet business hiring four people, and stated he had to bribe 10 - 15 people to gain possession of the proper licenses to begin his company. The case is not held to just small business', but to large corporations such as Walmart. 

Rema Hanna an Economist at Harvard, stated that in India it takes 30 days to begin a business, as opposed to 6 in the United States, while mere minutes in Estonia. Additionally, Hanna stated that bribery may be the only recipe for growth in India, as it may be the only method to speed along business to counter the large amount of paperwork. To counter corruption, the OECD will hold a seminar in India, although succeeding in slowing the rise of corrupt bureaucrats will take commitment and be no easy task as India has already not just accepted corruption, but institutionalized it. 

There may be a street to cross in India that states traffic is only coming from one direction, but it is wise to look the other way. Most likely, there is someone going the wrong way. 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The India Series: A One Way Street

This blog began the India Series with the saying  India can best be described as the place where you need to look both ways before crossing a one way street. This post looking at the broad economy of India will continue with this theme. 

Economically, India belongs to a group of nations known by the acronym BRIC. The acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China; four nations that are emerging on the international scene as global economic powers. A one way street economy has emerged, as Indian foreign investment is slowly drying up due to political wrangling resulting in deteriorating infrastructure. Definitionally, this blog will state a one way street in terms of foreign investment means following the long bureaucratic rules of Indian government without anyway around.
Retail and Agriculture still leads to Indian economy in terms of percentage of GDP. Overall, 2013 has been a rough year for the Indian economy as growth has fallen in the banking, oil/gas, and auto sector and unexpectedly, the property sector. The Indian economy is predicted to hit a decade low of 5% GDP growth , as the 2011/2012 Industrial Sector saw a growth of only 2.9% opposed to 8.2% in 2010/2011.  According to the Indian Central Statistics Office (CSO), agricultural, manufacturing industries will both drop in terms of growth. In addition, the services sector including finance, insurance, real estate and business services are expected to grow 8.6% as opposed to 11.7% the previous year. 

Per Capita Income is set to be $1163 in 2012/2013, a nine percentage points above last years $1042. Coal, crude and oil production are all supposed to fall during the 2012/2013 year in comparison to the previous year . India has a trade deficit that is deepening as exports have fallen while imports have grown with the need for more petroleum becoming ever more present. Inflation is around 6-7% as per numbers from January 2013. Additionally, as this blog has stated before Indian foreign investment has declined. 
Problematically, India has not improved its infrastructure to foster continual economic growth. This was explained by G P Hinduja, owner of truck maker Ashok Leyland, stating that India could have capitalized on its advantage over China being a relatively large English speaking country, but the infrastructure has failed to foster proper growth conditions. India is now ranked lower than all the BRIC nations in terms of foreign investment. 

Infrastructure is failing as India already had a few blackouts that had grabbed international media attention. More than half the population of India suffers from unreliable power sources, something that Nobel Prize winning Amartya Sen has stated is detrimental to economical development:

Unlike India, China did not miss the huge lesson of Asian economic development, about the economic returns that come from bettering human lives, especially at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid.

Sen is not mistaken, as improving the plight of the bottom of India's population will need to be done to spur development. For foreign investors, it is a one way street as they must comply with the elite and political rules to conduct business in the country. 

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Video Blog St. Petersburg

Alexonomic's first video blog in St. Petersburg. The India Series is on hold until a proper internet connection can be found.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Entrepreneurial Estonia

Tallinn is not exactly on the list of major cities in the world, yet it is a word being repeated in the technological startup community. As the capital of Estonia, Tallinn continues to offer entrepreneurs quick and easy access to beginning their business with an easy to use online bureaucracy. For example, it takes only about five minutes to register one's company.

Skype is probably the greatest example of Tallinn technological success, and some reports have stated that Estonia has the most start-ups per person not only in Europe, but the world. This is quite the bold statement for a country of 1.3 million people. Other companies in the region are Zerply (a professsional networking service for creative minds), ZeroTurnaround (tools for Java programmers) or GrabCAD (a service meant for mechanical engineers). Start-up competitions such as Garage48 offer hackathons to encourage continual development.

This information was inspired by Forbes.

Estonia has constantly been invaded since the Middle Ages. Geographically, it is a gateway between the West and Eastern countries and acts as an important port. Once the property of the Germanic order of Teutonic Knights who bought the property from the Danish, the country declared freedom in the 1920s, only to be invaded by the Soviet empire, then the Nazi's, and then the Soviets again. Unfortunately, the Soviet occupation resulted in thousands of Estonians being sent to Gulags, or leaving their own country because of the occupation. However, in 1988 the country declared independence.

As a result, the Estonian government had to reinvent their bureaucracy cheaply and decided to us information technology. The decision along with support for free higher education has resulted in a more educated technology savvy society. With tax existing for corporations only on their dividends, and the governmental fee to corporate can be paid at a later date, more start-ups are attracted to the country. In additional, a strong community of start-up organizations such as the Estonian Development Fund offer to support to entrepreneurs. At Tallinn University a start-up hub entitled Technopol houses 150 companies while accelerator programs like Gamefounders exist.

Unfortunately, size does matter for companies, as the population of 1.3 million means companies must immediately think international when looking for customers. Additionally, once companies grow they usually have to look abroad for new talent.

However, Estonia is a healthy example of a country that once was under the Iron Curtain in to a capitalistic success story. The international community should take notice of the more efficient utilizing of IT by the bureaucracy of Estonia, and apply the example. As the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has quickly created a strong unique technological niche that hopefully will continue to remain successful.  

Saturday, 20 July 2013

An Introduction to the India Series

India has been classified as a BRIC nation, a term coined by Goldman Sachs. This term puts India at a similar industrialization pace as China, Brazil and Russia. However, India has many hurdles to jump over before it can convince this writer that the relatively rosy economic predictions concerning India will occur.

While this writer was in India, four cities were visited. These are Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. As a result, do not be surprised if this series mentions these cities a few times more than others.

India has crumbling infrastructure, massive corruption, and badly seeks some sort of unity. For example, Chennai speaks more Tamil while Mumbai speaks Hindi. If one utters a word of Hindi in Chennai the locals might not even respond even if they know the language, they just prefer and expect fellow Indians to know Tamil. This cannot continue for the country to achieve the growth prophesied. Additionally, infrastructure of cities is in dire shape. While in Bangalore, one often has to hop over open sewer drains while they walk along the sidewalks. Lastly, corruption in the country is not just witnessed in the political system, but also in other areas such as the IPL. India’s cricket league had a major scandal involving match fixing.

Lastly, should one wish to see true capitalism in force, India is the place to go. The country needs more social security nets, which admittedly is very difficult to administer with such a large population.

Although many negatives have been mentioned, India has far more positives that reveals why investment banks such as Goldman Sachs see such potential. Citizens of India are hardworking individuals, and fairly accepting of new ideas. With strong family systems in place to train the next generation, India should ignore some Western ideals which are constantly portrayed by Indian media.

A friend of this writer once stated “India can best be described as the place where you need to look both ways before crossing a one way street”. The statement is quite true, as readers will see as the India Series begins. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Alexonomics Outlook for 2013: North America

Some of the same words used by this blog to describe the Middle East can be used to describe the United States of America. Incessant wrangling would certainly be a well fitting pair of words to describe the American Congress at this point in time.

The United States has the largest economy in the world, its GDP more than double that of the second place China. Compared to January, the unemployment rate has fallen from 7.9 to 7.6, while the average hourly earnings have increased from 23.78 to 24.01, as reported by the American Bureau of Labour Statistics. Positive news has been reported lately, specifically in the corporate world. After tax corporate earnings were almost $2 trillion in 2012 led by ExxonMobil, Apple and Chevron. In addition, the banking and housing industries have both rebounded as home sales went to levels not seen since 2006 while bank failures have dropped to 51 in 2012 which is a third of what it was in 2010.  An opinion piece in the Telegraph recently stated the US economy has soared, which should continue as the US is home to 47% of innovators.  This trend should continue as the United States is home to 19 of the world's top 25 Universities, and despite demographic worries, Wells Fargo states that the US will have its percentage of young working people at 42% between 2000 and 2050 compared to China, Europe and Japanese declines anywhere between 10% and 40%. In addition, only 25.4% of Americans will be 60 or older by 2040, lower than projections in Germany, China, and Japan.

In addition to this, the United States is on the road to energy independence through the extraction of natural gas, now the world's largest producer. The natural gas explosion has been fuelled through the chemical process  of fracking, which is an unconventional form of extraction. Basically, natural gas is trapped by pumping fluid into a wellbore causing shale rock strata to create a crack, or fracture. The crack seals and traps the gas for easier extraction as the oil and gas flows to the surface.

Although the fracking industry is estimated to hold around 1.7 million jobs and projected to create a million more, there is a serious debate on whether the activity should be allowed. Fracking began with the the passage of legislation known as the Halliburton Loophole, which exempted hydraulic fracking from any regulatory supervision by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This was a result of Dick Cheney, who used to work at Halliburton, being appointed to the Energy Task Force and lobbying for lessened regulation on the industry. This law was passed in 2005, even after a 2004 EPA report stated "fracturing fluids may pose a threat to drinking water long after drilling operations are completed".

The anti-fracking crowd's concerns should not be ignored. Water is essential to fracking, as one well uses around 3 to 8 million gallons of water during the lifetime of the well. Besides the heavy water usage, toxic chemicals such as antifreeze, hydraulic acid, are pumped underground and as some anti-fracking groups claim - leak into the water supply. These claims are heavily disputed by natural gas producers. The fluid that is pumped into the ground is isolated by steel and concrete from the earth, as well as the fracking takes place well below groundwater as the fracking takes place 2500-3000 meters below the surface compared to groundwater - which is 300 meters at most below the surface.

Most problematic about fracking is the massive amount of water used. Of the water used, only 60% can be used again for fracking fluid, and eventually is too polluted to use at all. Additionally, a report released by the Democrat party stated that 750 chemicals used in the process, 29 are carcinogens while an amount of fracking fluid remains in the ground after the well is abandoned. 

This is what the anti-fracking groups claim occurs.
However, Mr. Obama has never fully addressed his issue, echoing supporter's of fracking sentiments that there is 100 years worth of shale gas ready for exploitation. This statement most likely is not true, as the gas wells requiring the least capital have already been exploited and to extract the remaining reserves most likely will cost more than its worth. This is exemplified by Chesapeake which has been borrowing to fund its rather unprofitable ventures.

Wall Street begs to differ. Oil production in the US hasn't been this high since 1992, and has reduced reliance on OPEC as the United States has cut their oil imports by 37% from January 2008. Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup stated that OPEC will find its survival challenging with the US competition.

With the heat of the debate increasing, the topic of fracking will continue to make headlines over the next year as the United States battles between energy independence and potential pollution of their water supply.

Although Americans are slowly recovering from the recession, many are not happy about their gridlocked political situation. The Republicans and Democrats simply refuse to work together, causing the markets to react sternly in the form of debt downgrades. This issue has been widely talked about not just on this blog, but on many different media outlets. For America to begin to have a functioning government, the Republicans and Democrats must find common ground and learn to compromise for the betterment of the United States, not their own political party ambitions. Already, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has recognized this fact and has begun to offer an olive branch to the other side. Hopefully, this mentality will be copied or else America will continue to rack up budget deficits while increasing their $16 trillion debt.

Finance Minister Flaherty of Canada is looking
towards a balanced budget by 2015.
Contrarily, America's neighbours to the north have had better success in debt management, at least federally. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has a plan to balance the budget by 2015, and so far looks on path to complete the goal. Thus far, Canada has been looked at by the rest of the world as a model for keeping a strong economic course during the global recession spurred by the financial crisis in 2008/2009. Comparatively, Canadian economic confidence is higher than the Americans and British according to an Angus Reid Opinion poll.  The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has raised their estimate of Canadian growth outlook to 1.9% for 2013 and 2.9% in 2014 thanks to the improvement of corporate balance sheets along with stronger trade. This is in agreement with the IMF, which has upgraded Canadian growth to 1.7% in 2013, but states 2014 growth will be 2.2%, well under the RBC forecast.

However, problems still lie on the horizon for the Canadian economy. It was only in April that many more negative indicators reared their ugly heads, as Statistics Canada reported that building permits for residential construction fell by 7.2% along with slow job creation and predicted higher unemployment.  It was only in January that former Bank Of Canada governor Mark Carney admitted along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that government economic forecasts were too rosy.  The blame was placed on slow global economic growth along with a cooling housing market. Additionally, Scandinavian countries replaced Canada as the model for growth along with Australia and New Zealand. 

Mr. Stephen Poloz, the new Bank of Canada governor stated that Canada had four economic hurdles in their recent report.  First, stronger American private demand such as the recovery in the American housing market which could create stronger residential investment and higher interest rates, which may force Canada to reciprocate by raising their own interest rates. In addition to external threats, slow BRIC growth in nations such as China and Brazil will have an influence to Canada, most likely through weaker export sales and lower commodity prices. Europe most likely will continue to struggle economically, as the largest threat is contagion to the financial markets spreading. Physically, Canada's risk to European debt is little, but theoretically the risk of fear spreading could cause great damage in borrowing markets. Lastly, domestic debt continues to remain high. Although lower than previous years, Canadian household debt continues to be a problem that risks the Canadian Me\economy.

One economic event that shall be watched is the Keystone XL pipeline, which TransCanada Corp's CEO Russ Girling stated that it is unlikely construction will begin by 2015 as the company awaits a decision from the US government.  The pipeline is expected to cost around $5.3 billion and take two years to build.

Politically, Canada is relatively stable under the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper. Elections will not occur until 2015. Although some scandals have occurred and questions raised about different expenditures such as the F-35, the conservative government of Canada has set a relatively steady course rejecting rash decisions and focusing on slow thoughtful decisions. Politically, Canada is almost the opposite of the US as the majority government makes decisions that can be implemented. Although the liberals led under the popular Justin Trudeau and NDP argue differently, they will have to wait until 2015 to prove differently.

To the south of the United States lies Mexico, a country grappling with not fulfilling expected growth rates. GDP grew .8% in the first quarter of 2013, less than the 1.1% analyst estimate. Home building has fallen in Mexico while Mexican public companies reported less than expected sales in the first quarter of 2013. Although the OECD reported at the end of 2012 that the Mexican economy will grow 3.3% in 2013 slowing from 2012's growth of 3.8%, politics may prevent this.

Can Mexico enforce reform?
While American internal growth may hurt Mexican exports to the United States, President Enrique Pena Nieto has attempted to earn favour with the Obama administration by putting through legislation that would increase bank lending and competitive behaviour. This may be tough, as Mr. Pena's own ruling party is not exempt from mischievous action. Additionally, Mr. Pena plans on reforming telecommunications, education, and energy; industries that will oppose any sort of change. Exemplifying this is the PRI oil workers union, which means Mr. Pena will come within confrontation of his own party. Mexico long has had problems with governmental corruption and badly needed reform. The question is how possible the reform will actually be when it comes to implementation.

In central America, many analysts are calling Panama the Singapore of the Americas. With the IMF expecting growth averaged out around 6% over 5 years, it is known how large a part the originally American built canal is playing in the growth of Panama. However, the Panama government's business friendly rules have created foreign investment worth around 9% of total GDP. An expansion worth $6 billion of the canal will be complete in 2014. However, wealth does not solve problems. Education and average income of many aboriginal populations both remain low. Additionally, President Martinelli has been accused of meddling with the courts while asking for American help in spying on democratic opponents. The most problematic hazard of Panama is that the Panama Canal Authority could be nationalized for cash, as cautioned by the story of Pemex in Mexico.

This blog has only mentioned four countries, and could mention other nations such as Cuba or Nicaragua. However, due to the fact that this is a continental report, the more outstanding nations in each continent are mentioned. Below, the following should be looked at in the future within the boundaries of North America:

  • American political gridlock will have to end for the United States to have a successful existence. The country is not in as bad financial shape as many have suggested, but the continual disregard for compromise by both Republicans and Democrats could prove to be detrimental. 
  • The Keystone XL pipeline will become an increasingly important issue as Canada looks to extend their energy outlook. 
  • With regards to fracking, it will become a more debated topic not just in America and Canada, but across the world. The question of whether the environmental challenges that may occur because of hydraulic fracking are worth extraction of natural gas to achieve energy independence by the United States will become one of the larger questions America asks in the future.
  • Panama will extend their canal successfully and become a more important nation in international commerce as continual cross ocean trade continues. 
North America will continue to lead the world in both innovation and economic growth, but only if the United States' government decides to create a bipartisan relationship between the Republicans and Democrats. It is hopeful this occurs, as no other country is prepared to take over the role of global hegemony from the United States.