21 October 2016

Each fortnight on the Policy File we round-up some essential weekend policy reading from around the web. This week on Policy File, we look at the death of the Thai King, the BRICs summit, the US election, and the new UN Secretary-General.

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week has left Thailand in mourning and the country in uncertain territory. On Policy Forum, Paul Sanderson looks at the strange passing of a hugely influential figure, while Jeffrey Peters assesses the likelihood that the succession will result in political crisis.

At New Mandala, Nicholas Farrelly reflects on the remarkable and contentious reign of King Bhumibol, from his ascension to the throne in 1946 after the mysterious death of his older brother, to his influence over the political unrest that brought down the Thaksin government in 2006. Meanwhile Andrew MacGregor Marshall looks at the political forces which will seek control over the succession process.

With the US election now just weeks away, the world is closely watching the political steps and missteps of candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In the Washington Post, David Ignatius looks at how the election is giving world-leaders serious anxiety. At Bloomberg, Joshua Kurlantzick argues that while Trump is unlikely to win, his political legacy will remain a force in US politics for years to come. If the state of US politics is getting you down, have a read of Tim Urban’s hilarious ‘transcript’ of the second presidential debate on his blog Wait But Why.

The World Health Organization has estimated that the number of people requiring equipment to stay alive or function in society could rise to two billion by 2050. At DevPolicy Blog, Wesley Pryor warns that the world is not prepared to deal with this rise in assistive technologies. Staying with health, Sam Byfield at Policy Forum questions why non-communicable diseases don’t attract the same global attention or funding as other diseases, despite being the leading cause of death and illness. Meanwhile at The Guardian, Alejandro Aravena presents a roadmap to dealing with the education and healthcare needs of the estimated two billion more people who will live in cities by 2035.

The annual BRICS summit in Goa, India, saw a raft of new agreements signed between the rising economic powers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. At Russia Today, Pepe Escobar examines the geopolitical power plays of each of the BRICS nations, while at The National Interest Dave Majumdar reports on the India-Russia deal to lease India a second nuclear attack submarine.

Indonesia has recently implemented a tax amnesty in an attempt to regain some degree of taxation power over the assets of wealthy Indonesians who have stashed their wealth abroad. At the South China Morning Post, John McBeth reports on the mixed success of the policy to date. At AusTaxPolicy, Ralph-Christopher Bayer reviews the theory of tax amnesties and the evidence of their success in practice, with a cautionary lesson for policymakers.

The UN General Assembly has confirmed Portuguese António Guterres as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. At The Nation, Barbara Crossette reports on the politics which prevented a woman from winning the position for the first time in the UN’s history, but which nevertheless elected a passionate defender of human rights. At The Huffington Post, Alice Albright writes that the election of Guterres is welcome news for global education.

Billionaire Elon Musk’s declaration that he plans to build a civilisation on Mars has been met with a great deal of both excitement and scepticism. In The New Political, Ryan Severance argues that the Mars venture is a gamble worth taking, while at Wired, John Pike makes the case that Musk is overly optimistic about the potential of technology, and that without funding his Mars vision is no more than fantasy.

Finally, we note with considerable sadness the death last week of Des Ball. Professor Ball was a towering figure in strategic studies and hugely influential in public policy. He was once described by former US President Jimmy Carter as the man who “saved the world” from potential nuclear holocaust through his pioneering work debunking the idea of limited nuclear strikes. At the Sydney Morning Herald Hamish McDonald takes a look at Des Ball’s incredible and varied life, while Daniel Flitton writes on his work – from Pine Gap to Burma and beyond – and the considerable influence it had on government thinking. Also well worth a read is this 2012 piece with Nicholas Farrelly in discussion with Des Ball, the “insurgent intellectual”. He will be much missed. Vale Des Ball.

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