The South Asian polycrisis
September 22, 2022 9:15 AM   Subscribe

The South Asian Polycrisis. Economist Adam Tooze writes in his substack newsletter about the multiple crises affecting South Asia, particularly Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
posted by tavegyl (10 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Tooze keeps doing excellent and useful work.
posted by doctornemo at 9:57 AM on September 22

Historian! As a Toozehound he is a historian!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:02 AM on September 22

Bangladesh, one of the economic success stories of recent years, now has a higher GDP per capita than India and is on the cusp of formally graduating from the LDC category. The UN has apparently pencilled in the ceremony for 2026.
So... meetup in Dhaka in '26?

Provided we're not all dead and international jet travel is still a thing, of course. But that's sort of a standard disclaimer for all plans at this point.

More seriously, I wonder if there's some win-win that could be hammered out between developed Western states and S. Asian states to finance the construction of industries like solar panel, wind-turbine, and EV component manufacturing (large-scale composite structures, rare earth magnetic products, high-power solid state components, lithium batteries and battery recovery/recycling infrastructure).

Because in the long run there's never not going to be a demand for energy, and borrowing money to build coal-fired powerplants (or import coal) is a terrible-for-everyone stopgap solution. For the West, such a deal would relieve some of the pressure on green energy being almost wholly dependent on Chinese industry (or the slow ramping-up of production in the West, and its associated high costs), which I think is a seldom-acknowledged barrier to further adoption of clean energy.

And the benefit to those states would be obvious, both in terms of FX from exports, and a reliable, domestic (i.e. priced in local currency) supply of items needed to facilitate a transition away from imported energy, which if they aren't considered strategic essentials already, will be very soon.

I get that it might seem perverse on its face for the solution to a financial crisis caused by foreign loans to be more foreign loans, but nobody benefits from having a host of major world economies in the toilet, particularly when they are (at least notionally) democratic states that form a bulwark against China's state-uber-alles authoritarianist model. And it's not like most states in the region can really afford austerity measures. "Austerity" in Greece might be bad enough and reduce standards of living; "austerity" in Pakistan means people are going to die in large numbers. There needs to be continued large-scale investment on reasonable terms, ones with fewer poison pills than whatever Faustian bargains the Chinese state banks are presumably always ready to offer.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:31 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]

I didn't know about India's decision to block grain and rice exports. It sent a shiver down my spine.
posted by zenon at 1:02 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Spare a thought for Bangladesh when this thread merges with the 1.5°C thread next door. Bangladesh has half the population of the USA living in an Iowa-sized [or NY, IL] polity of which 20% [= 30million people] is less than 3ft above sea level. The country merges almost imperceptibly into the Bay of Bengal which is huge and shallow and heats up real quick making the air above both wet and fizzy.
Advise setting up your solar-panel factory in the Chittagong Hills rather than in flood plains near Dhaka?
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:03 PM on September 22 [12 favorites]

Tooze's regions of polycrisis might be defined succinctly as zones in which the collective trouble is worse than the sum of its parts. I always take time to read his little 'scrapbooks for orientating ourselves' in our complex times.
posted by zenon at 1:10 PM on September 22

"More seriously, I wonder if there's some win-win that could be hammered out between developed Western states and S. Asian states to finance the construction of industries like solar panel, wind-turbine..."

"Nuclear Power in Bangladesh
(Updated February 2022)
Bangladesh started construction of its first nuclear power reactor, Rooppur 1, in November 2017. The unit is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023.
Construction of the second unit at Rooppur commenced in July 2018.
The country has a rapidly increasing power demand and is aiming to reduce its dependence on natural gas."

"Questions over Russia-funded nuclear power plant in Bangladesh" Feb, 2022

Bangladesh, South Korea enhance nuclear energy cooperation
25 May 2022

South Korea keen to build nuclear power plant for Bangladesh: envoy.
31st Aug, 2022

'India, Bangladesh sign water-sharing deal, in boost to ties. Sept. 6, 2022'

'Bangladesh's foreign debt liability swells as price of dollar shoots up'
21 Sep 2022

Tooze does not mention Nuclear development in Bangladesh. The geo-political shift from Russia to South Korea is interesting...many interesting things in the past 2 months.
posted by clavdivs at 4:32 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

I don't know why it took until sometime a year ago for me to discover Tooze but boy, he is something else. I have been reading Crashed! (about the financial crisis and EU crisis,) and I have gone down the rabbit hole of any speaking engagements of his that are available online. My favorite part of his talks is usually the Q and A where he is so lucid and concise and THOUGHTFUL in his replies that it is a pure pleasure to listen too.
posted by Pembquist at 10:42 AM on September 23

Polycrisis is all too apt a word for all too many situations all too often these days, unfortunately.
posted by y2karl at 2:58 PM on September 23

This is surprisingly in-depth, although it could have used an editor.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:02 PM on September 23

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