Connect to share and comment
Bad government actions aren't the purview of just the United States. GlobalPost's senior correspondents take a spin around Planet Stupid.
BOSTON, Mass. — With the partial government shut-down that began Tuesday, Washington seems bent on waging a bitter, partisan battle that threatens the world's largest economy — to say nothing of the human, political and other damage the spat could produce in the United States and around the world.
But Washington is not alone in its short-sightedness.
When it comes to government actions, there's plenty of stupid to go around. We asked GlobalPost's senior correspondents stationed around the world to recount some of their favorite examples. They did not disappoint, and came up with 19.
Palm, meet face.
1. North Korea: On the brink of starvation? More nukes, please
With its garish war threats and brassy personality cult, North Korea has always been a pariah. In fact, many experts agree that the world’s most heavily sanctioned regime is largely to blame for its own woes.
A decade ago, North and South Korea were growing closer, paving the way for the eventual reunification of the peninsula. The North was in need of aid, emerging from a famine that brought it to the brink of collapse. The South, in a humanitarian gesture, was handing over assistance worth millions of dollars each year.
Then in 2006, the country tested the first of three nuclear devices — pouring resources into its military at the expense of its malnourished people. The result: further international isolation.
Southerners felt particularly burned by the nuke tests. In 2008, voters pushed out the long-popular liberal party and elected tough-guy president Lee Myung-bak, who slashed aid to the North. Following a third nuclear test last winter, the United Nations tightened the screws once again, passing a heavy embargo on the state financial bank.
—By Geoffrey Cain in Seoul
2. South Korea: The annual parliamentary brawl
With a government shutdown looming, American lawmakers are venting their frustration in fiery op-eds and speeches. In the South Korean National Assembly, this sort of deadlock would be apt to trigger a massive brawl on the parliament floor. Yes, really.
The spectacle has become something of a rite of passage for Korean politicians. One newspaper has even called it the “yearly budget brawl,” since it’s usually sparked by opposition parties angry with the national budget. Past melees have seen smoke grenades, sledgehammers, a chainsaw, and the creative use of fire extinguishers.
While the images make for a good laugh, the scuffles rarely lead to solutions. About two-thirds of South Koreans, understandably, think their political parties and the legislature are “corrupt” or “extremely corrupt,” the worst of any institution surveyed, according to a study by the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
—By Geoffrey Cain in Seoul
3. Thailand: Bangkok wrecks its world-class rice production by spoiling its farmers
If you’re among the 3.5 billion people who eat rice — i.e., half of humanity — there’s a good chance you’ve eaten grains that once sprouted up from Thailand’s emerald-green rice paddies. For three decades running, the nation exported more rice than any other on the planet.
But no longer. Stats confirm that in 2012 Thailand not only lost the lead spot but fell to third place. The primary cause of this development wasn’t a flood or a plague.
It was populist politics.
Thailand is still producing vast mountains of rice. But these days, much of it ends up in state-owned warehouses.
That’s because the ruling political party, during elections two years ago, promised rice farmers it would buy every grain they could produce and pay them nearly 50 percent above the market rate.
That’s a recipe for happy farmers, a key voting bloc. It’s also costing the government more than $12 billion a year — about 4 percent of GDP. The scheme’s architects had hoped dragging so much rice supply out of the market and into silos would ratchet up the global price and allow them to sell their vast stockpile at a premium.
Instead, rival rice growing nations pounced to meet the world’s demand for rice. India is now the top exporter. Vietnam has edged out Thailand for second place. And most commodities experts predict Thailand won’t be able to reclaim the crown for years to come.
—By Patrick Winn in Bangkok and Yangon
4. Myanmar: Dictator reconfigures currency to suit a lucky number
Ask anyone in Myanmar over the age of 40 to cite the