Anger Grows Against Hong Kong crony capitalists and China’s capitalists alike

Economic Inequality Underlies Hong Kong Protests

Over the past week, the protesters in Hong Kong have focused on well-defined political demands, with full democratic elections and the resignation of Chief Executive C.Y. Leung at the top of the list. But protesters have also been driven to the streets by a variety of longstanding grievances, many of which stem from the economic inequality which has built up in Hong Kong society, putting the city at the top of The Economist’s “crony-capitalism index,” or list of “countries where politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper.” The gini coefficient, which measures the gap between rich and poor, is at the highest levels ever for Hong Kong, according to a 2013 report from Bloomberg:

Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, rose to 0.537 in 2011 from 0.525 in 2001, the government said last June. The score, a high for the city since records began in 1971, is above the 0.4 level used by analysts as a gauge of the potential for social unrest. 

Hong Kong’s close business ties to mainland China, especially since the handover in 1997, have exacerbated these inequalities. But as the recent protests show, economic issues are quickly becoming political for residents of Hong Kong who are missing out on the boom. Neil Gough reports for the New York Times:

China is grappling with a political problem in part because Hong Kong is dealing with an economic one. Underlying the current unrest in Hong Kong, an affluent city of 7.2 million that was a British colony for 155 years before it was returned to China in 1997, is a widening wealth gap. Continue reading

Bahrain: A world away from Manama

Bahrain’s impoverished villages see little benefit from billions of dollars being invested in the glimmering capital.

by Gregg Carlstrom

Karzakan, Bahrain — Driving through this cheerless village, 20 kilometres southwest of Manama, it is easy to understand why thousands of protesters have camped out in Pearl Roundabout for nearly a month.

Karzakan feels a world apart from Bahrain’s glimmering capital. A clutch of grim concrete buildings – a fruit and vegetable stand, a shawarma shop, a few construction firms – sit along the poorly-maintained main road. A group of schoolchildren ride by on the back of a pickup truck, chanting yasqat Hamad (“down with Hamad”) and bouncing up and down as the driver navigates the potholed street.

Many of Bahrain’s villages lack basic services – connections to the municipal sewage grid, regular garbage collection – and the stench of trash and waste hovers over some of Karzakan’s back alleys and side streets. Residents say the poor sanitation leads to occasional outbreaks of disease, particularly among young children. Continue reading