Economist 11/17/15

  1. Nearly 10m foreign sightseers will enter the Indonesia this year, many heading straight to the bars and beaches of the island of Bali. That is a record, but still well short of the 12m or so who visit tiny Singapore.Inflexible visa rules, dangerous transport, annual forest fires and lingering worries about terrorists are among many of Indonesia’s handicaps.As well as pepping up domestic travel, the government wants at least 20m foreign tourists to visit annually by 2020.For the first time tourism now has a government ministry of its own. Its promotional budget this year quadrupled to nearly $100m, and could rise to $300m in 2016.Immigration authorities have at last granted visa-free entry to tourists from dozens of countries, batting back nationalists who say states that benefit should open their borders in return.
  2. AMERICA remains the world’s most profligate spender on health care, according to a report published on November 4th by the OECD, a club of 34 mostly rich countries. In 2013 America spent, on average, $8,713 per person—two and a half times as much as the OECD average. Yet the average American dies 1.7 years earlier than the average OECD citizen. This longevity gap has grown by a year since 2003. Americans have the same life expectancy as Chileans, even though Chile spends less than a fifth of what America spends on health care per person.
  3. The prize, said the Nobel committee, was also an encouragement for Tunisia to stay the course. But a month later, the country looks rather wobbly. A rift in the dominant political party threatens to destabilise the government, which was already struggling to jump-start an economy plagued by corruption, red tape and two big attacks on foreign tourists claimed by Islamic State this year.Neighbouring Libya, mired in civil war, may have provided the training ground for those terrorist strikes.The security threat adds to pressure on Nidaa Tounes, the party with the most seats in parliament, to resolve a long-simmering power struggle between rival factions.
  4. One wing, led by Mohsen Marzouk, the party’s secretary-general, believes Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who leads the other wing, is trying to create a family dynasty. His father, Beji, is Tunisia’s president and the founder of the party.The party is a patchwork of leftists, liberals and conservatives, as well as trade unionists and businessmen, many of whom have ties to the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the former dictator. They united under the banner of Nidaa Tounes, and the leadership of Mr Essebsi, to oppose Nahda, a moderate Islamist party that led the government from late 2011 to early 2014.(Any split in Nidaa Tounes would, ironically, make Nahda the largest party in parliament.)If the government survives, as expected, that may be its biggest accomplishment. It has done little to reform the inneficient economy, which still favours old elites. The public sector, already too large, has recently grown. Corruption, say some, is worse than ever.The lack of economic progress in the countryside makes securing Tunisia more difficult. Thousands of Tunisians are thought to have joined Islamic State in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
  5. SLAMMING the door on Syrian refugees would be a betrayal of America’s values, declared Barack Obama on November 16th. Refugees should not, he said, be conflated with terrorists.Yet in spite of his exhortations, 22 Republican governors declared on the same day that they would not accept any Syrian refugees in their state, in defiance of Mr Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrians in America over the next year.Michigan has one of the largest Arab-American communities in the country with several hundred thousand residents of Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese origin. The generally pro-immigration Mr Snyder has hitherto encouraged Syrians to come to his state.The governors’ and presidential contenders’ reaction is opportunistic and counterproductive. They see the tragedy as an opportunity to look prudent and protective of their citizens while ignoring the fact that since the 1980s not a single refugee, who has gone through the refugee-resettlement process, has committed a terrorist act in America (the Boston bombers were asylum seekers). So they are in fact “protecting” their citizens from a threat that barely exists. It is much easier for a foreign terrorist to come to America on a student or tourist visa, as the 9/11 hijackers have done, than to go through the year-long vetting process in refugee camps.In spite of their grandstanding the governors don’t have the legal power to stop refugees from settling in their state. Once they have been admitted to America they will be able to move around freely, like all residents.

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