The Trump-Vance Ticket — populist economics to the fore : situation update


  • The selection of JD Vance as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential nominee signals a potential shift or reinforcement of certain economic and trade policies.
  • Vance, known for his populist stances and advocacy for the working class, aligns closely with many of Trump’s economic viewpoints.
  • This partnership likely suggests a future direction characterised by protectionist trade policies and a focus on reviving American manufacturing.
  • It indicates a strong desire among the electorate for policies that reclaim economic sovereignty, which is also reflected by the overlap between populist right and left economic policies
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Situation brief: Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024


  • Necessity for Fiscal Reforms: Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 aims to address fiscal deficits through tax reforms and align with IMF-supported economic stability measures.
  • Strong Public Opposition: The Bill has sparked widespread protests, reflecting deep dissatisfaction among Kenyans due to increased costs of living and perceived punitive tax measures.
  • Government Advocacy vs. Public Sentiment: President Ruto promotes the bill as essential for economic health, contrasting sharply with the negative public perception and overwhelming opposition revealed in polls.
  • Government Response to Protests: In response to intense public backlash, the government amended the Bill to remove some controversial taxes, highlighting the impact of civic engagement on policy.
  • Protest violence: Protests against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 have intensified, resulting in violent confrontations between the police and demonstrators, predominantly young adults. The police response, involving tear gas, water cannons, and live ammunition, has led to numerous injuries and arrests, and notably, one fatality.
  • Lessons on Public Policy: The situation underscores the importance of public buy-in for successful policy implementation, effective communication, and balancing international standards with local economic realities.
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The Rise of Protectionist Economic Policies: A Response to Populism and Alternative Political Movements

Recently, advanced economies have witnessed a significant shift towards protectionist economic policies. While this is often framed in terms of geopolitical competition, especially involving China, this trend should also be understood as a response to the growing influence of populism and the surge in support for alternative political parties. To grasp this phenomenon, it is essential to examine the underlying causes and the interplay between populist sentiments and economic policy changes.

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Chinese electric vehicles & soft power: situation update


  • Tariff Increase: The Biden administration is set to increase tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) from 25% to potentially 100%, significantly raising the cost of Chinese EVs in the US market​.
  • Geopolitical Strategy: This move aims to curtail China’s dominance in the global EV market and protect the nascent US clean energy sector from a flood of subsidised Chinese imports.
  • Domestic Industrial Policy: The tariffs are part of Biden’s broader strategy to boost American manufacturing, specifically in the EV and clean energy sectors, to ensure national security and economic growth.
  • Labour and Employment: The tariff policy is designed to support American jobs, particularly in the auto industry, resonating with labour unions and blue-collar workers in key battleground states​.
  • Electoral Strategy: With the 2024 presidential election approaching, Biden’s move to raise tariffs helps distinguish his trade policy from that of former President Trump, who has also advocated for high tariffs on Chinese goods​.
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India’s Election: Situational Update


  • Congress’s “Nyay Patra” Manifesto: Focuses on social justice with promises for jobs, financial aid for women, and a controversial wealth redistribution survey based on caste and minority status, sparking debates about its potential to deepen social divisions.
  • BJP’s “Abki Baar 400 Paar” Campaign: Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, targets over 400 seats with a platform emphasising national security, economic growth, and Hindu cultural nationalism. Criticises Congress’s manifesto as threatening national security and stability.
  • Controversial Aspects of Congress’s Manifesto: Includes a wealth redistribution plan and a caste census, which have been criticised for potentially fostering economic disincentives and social unrest.
  • Modi’s Rhetoric Viewed as Anti-Muslim: Accusations against Congress for pandering to Muslim interests, using divisive language, and linking Congress policies to historical adversaries like the Muslim League.
  • Electoral Strategies and Implications: BJP’s campaign focuses on a strong nationalistic approach, while Congress aims for transformative social justice measures. The election presents a stark choice between two contrasting visions for India’s future.
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Youth and the protests of 1968 & 2024

Recent protests on American campuses regarding the situation in Gaza have been marked by widespread student activism and institutional responses. These protests have seen students engage in various forms of activism, including walkouts, sit-ins, and the establishment of “Solidarity Encampments.” For example, at the University of Pittsburgh, students declared a “Liberation Zone,” while at the University of Texas at Austin, a significant walkout and sit-in led to the deployment of state troopers and arrests of students. Similarly, at Yale University, a group of graduate students initiated a hunger strike to protest the university’s investments related to the conflict​.

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Istanbul’s Mayoral Election: situational brief

  • Ekrem İmamoğlu has risen to prominence as the Mayor of Istanbul since 2019, with a background in business administration and human resource management from Istanbul University.
  • Despite facing legal challenges, including a conviction for “insulting electoral officials” that has not resulted in a political ban pending appeal, İmamoğlu’s popularity and leadership in Istanbul were reinforced by a wide-margin victory in the 2024 mayoral election.
  • İmamoğlu’s appeal across various voter demographics and his handling of Istanbul’s challenges has led to some considering him a potential future presidential candidate.
  • Istanbul has always been a crucial political battleground in Turkey, and Erdoğan’s own political career began with his tenure as the city’s mayor in the 1990s. 
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India’s Election Bond Scheme: situational brief


  • The Election Bond Scheme was launched by the Indian government in 2018, allowing anonymous donations to political parties via bonds issued by the State Bank of India, aimed at increasing transparency in political funding.
  • Despite initial optimism, the scheme faced criticism for lacking transparency, as it enabled donors to contribute anonymously, raising concerns about undisclosed influences on policymaking.
  • Analysis indicated a disproportionate advantage to the ruling party, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) receiving the majority of funds through these bonds, highlighting potential biases in the distribution of donations.
  • Legal and ethical concerns emerged regarding the potential for an influx of unaccounted money and foreign influence in the political system, prompting challenges in the Supreme Court of India and calls for reform to address these issues.
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Sri Lanka: Briefing Note — 2024-03-26

For a detailed timeline of major events in Sri Lanka post-2019, please visit our Sri Lanka Timeline.

Our previous Sri Lanka briefing notes can found here.

Election season begins

  • While speculation continues to run rampant in certain circles about whether the Presidential or Parliamentary election will be held first, it seems clear that President Wickremesinghe (RW) intends to hold the former first.
    • He continues to position the economic reforms and IMF program as the priority for the country, and the only way forward for Sri Lanka.
    • Leveraging that, his personal positioning is that of the only person with the expertise, and the ability to form a broad consensus among the political class to carry through with it.
    • The question, as has been the case throughout his career, is whether he can convince ordinary voters that this is the case.
  • RW’s main points of attack were on full-display at a rally for the United National Party that he leads.
    • Speaking about the breakaway SJP party (led by Sajith Premadasa((SP))), he stated:

the foundational principles of the United National Party are absent in the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), appealed to former United National Party members who joined the SJB to unite in safeguarding the nation from indebtedness and contribute to constructing a secure future for generations to come.

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Global Farmer Protests: Briefing Note

Recently, the agricultural sector has experienced significant unrest, manifesting in waves of farmer protests across the globe. Particularly prominent in the EU and India, these movements have been driven by a confluence of economic, environmental, and political challenges, reflecting broader concerns about sustainability, equity, and governance in the agricultural domain. This briefing note provides an overview of these protests, highlighting key examples, common themes and issues, and the wider political implications.

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