Economist 4/15/14

  1. KENYA’S long walk to middle-income status looks set to end in a sudden statistical leap. GDP estimates for east Africa’s biggest economy are expected to jump by up to one-fifth when a government-led statistical review reports in September.
  2. Blood-sugar levels and tolerance for one’s better half’s irritating foibles do, then, seem to be correlated. That does not prove causation—particularly in the case of the noise test, where higher or lower glucose levels over an extended period might be a reflection of something else significant and pertinent about the person in question. It may, though, be that one of the secrets of a successful marriage is to eat before you fight.
  3. According to IATA, an industry body, 2009 was the industry’s worst year since the second world war for the airline industry .Optimism is now growing that the global economy has entered a cyclical upturn. Worldwide passenger traffic grew by 5.2% last year. IATA expects it to rise another 31% by 2017. International premium traffic—those passengers who turn left when they embark—was up 4.2% last year. Such high-yielding business travellers are by far the most valuable for airlines. Overall, worldwide airline profits are forecast to reach $18.7 billion this year.   But with every extra Boeing 777 they operate, space for another 25 tonnes of freight is added to the marketplace. Surplus capacity in the bellies of passenger aircraft drives down freight yields, which damages the overall health of the cargo industry.In response, many global carriers are moving out of the dedicated freighter market. Next month, British Airways will stop operating its 747-8F freighters, instead relying on hold capacity in passe. Coyne Airways describes itself as a non-asset-based airline. It is the 91st largest freight carrier in the world, yet it neither owns nor leases aircraft. Sometimes it will charter flights, but more often it simply buys space on another carrier’s freighter.
  4. The Syrian conflict next door has divided residents in Lebanon who support Bashar Assad from those who back the opposition. Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia movement, is fighting alongside Mr Assad’s forces in Syria. Some Lebanese Sunnis have gone to fight alongside Syria’s rebels; others have been inspired to act at home.The army is the only institution that was largely considered to be a national body in a post-civil war system built on sectarianism. But the army’s recent actions have prompted accusations that it is not neutral. Unable to tackle Hizbullah, the authorities have tended to arrest Sunni militants, including those involved in car bombings in Lebanon in response to Hizbullah fighting in Syria.

The main and hardest tasks for businesses during political crises are, however, to survive and to keep trading: to fend off looters if law and order break down, and to persuade clients that they can still function. (Mr Stringer recalls hastily reorganising a lunch with an English customer after the planned venue was blown up.) Tycoons, who find it hard to avoid being sucked into power struggles, sometimes face particular difficulties. In Ukraine, oligarchs associated with Mr Yanukovych stampeded to disassociate themselves from him when he fell. Or consider the boost given by the upheaval in Egypt to Jumia.com, an online retailer. Internet penetration rose as people sought reliable news. And because the streets were rowdy, explains Mattia Perroni, Jumia’s boss in Egypt, people were less keen to shop on the street. Online retailers prospered.

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