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SnapshotsSep 29, 2020 | 20:24 GMT
A Split Poll Sways Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Lawmakers to Stay for Extended Term
As the room for dissent in the city shrinks, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp will find itself increasingly divided between those who want to work within the system, those who choose to confront authorities and those who want to simply opt-out of politics altogether. On Sept. 29, 15 Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers announced that they had chosen not to boycott the upcoming extended Legislative Council term, following a poll showing their supporters were divided on the issue. The lawmakers took the inconclusive poll results as a directive to exercise their own discretion, saying they chose "the lesser of two evils" in order to prevent the pro-Beijing camp from easily passing adverse legislation and to maintain a platform to express pro-democracy opinions. 
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Quarterly ForecastsSep 28, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
2020 Fourth-Quarter Forecast
The last quarter of 2020 will be a waiting game -- waiting for the results of the U.S. election in November, waiting on economic numbers, and waiting to see how the COVID-19 crisis plays out.
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SnapshotsSep 25, 2020 | 17:42 GMT
In Kuwait, a Blocked Debt Law Portends a Dissolved Parliament
Kuwait’s pandemic-related financial struggles may force its leader, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, to bypass the country’s legislative process in order to push through a crucial debt law that remains locked in parliament. The need to enact other overdue reforms may also tempt Al Sabah to extend a potential parliamentary suspension -- a politically risky move that would also require suspending Kuwait's constitution. On Sept. 23, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Kuwait's sovereign credit rating for the first time to “A1,” citing the country's liquidity crisis that has been brought on by low oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its announcement, Moody’s also specifically referenced the Kuwaiti government’s failure to pass a debt law that would help mitigate the country’s current financial woes by enabling its finance ministry to issue sovereign bonds.
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AssessmentsSep 22, 2020 | 19:33 GMT
A woman wearing a face mask stands at a terrace on top of a building in Fnideq, Morocco, on Aug. 28, 2020.
COVID-19 Forces Morocco to Mull a Risky Election Delay
The economic impact of COVID-19 could force the Moroccan government to delay upcoming elections, which would raise the risk of social unrest and rare public scrutiny on the country’s elected and unelected officials. Morocco is currently scheduled to hold parliamentary and local elections in the summer and fall of 2021. Some Moroccan political parties have pushed for delaying elections in favor of forming a national salvation government that can more deftly handle the country’s pandemic-induced economic crisis, while other parties support holding the ballot on time, arguing that such stressful circumstances require the stability of regular elections. 
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SnapshotsSep 14, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
New U.S. Sanctions Against Hezbollah Risk Thwarting Lebanon's Progress
New U.S. Sanctions against Hezbollah risk extending Lebanon's economic and political crises by undercutting French efforts to broker Lebanese domestic political and economic reforms, which require the Iran-backed militant group and political party's support. On Sept. 8, the United States issued sanctions against two Lebanese politicians for engaging in corruption and providing "material support" to Hezbollah. The policy change appears to expand U.S. actions in recent years against the group, which has long been a target of Washington's efforts to counter Iranian proxies and allies throughout the Middle East. This is the first time the United States has targeted individuals with second-order connections to the group, broadening its scope of sanctions in ways that will impact a larger cross-section of Lebanese politicians across all major factions. The widening net will also create regulatory barriers that are likely to further spook investors and international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund.
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AssessmentsSep 11, 2020 | 15:40 GMT
An external view of the building of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.
What the Fading Promise of EU Accession Means for the Balkans
The European Union will not accept any new member states for the foreseeable future, which will erode the promise of EU accession that has made the bloc an influential political and economic force in the Western Balkans. As the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis forces the European Union to remain focused on recovering (and not enlarging) its economy, candidate countries risk veering off from the reforms they had been pursuing to earn their place in the bloc. Non-EU players such as the United States, Russia and China, meanwhile, will likely become more active in the region, seeing European Union's waning presence as an opportunity to assert their own influence in the Balkans.
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SnapshotsSep 8, 2020 | 20:05 GMT
The U.K. Turns up the Heat Ahead of the Next Round of Brexit Talks
The desire to avoid further economic disruption amid the COVID-19 crisis will keep the United Kingdom and European Union focused on reaching a limited trade deal before London exits the EU single market on Jan. 1. But threats on both sides to abort negotiations are again increasing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit that would force the European Union and the United Kingdom to trade under costly World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs. The latest round of EU-U.K. trade talks began in London on Sept. 8 and will end on Sept. 11. On Sept. 7, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government would walk away from the negotiations if there is not a deal by Oct. 15. The U.K. government is also expected to unveil a bill on Sept. 9 that "clarifies" certain aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement it negotiated with the European Union late last year, including London's interpretation
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SnapshotsSep 3, 2020 | 16:10 GMT
The Eurozone's Economic Rebound Loses Momentum
Early signs indicate the eurozone's economic rebound from the COVID-19 crisis is already losing steam, which will force governments to introduce new rounds of stimulus that deepen their already problematic fiscal deficits. The eurozone contracted by a record 12.1 percent during the second quarter of 2020 as lockdown measures negatively impacted consumption, investment and trade. The lifting of those measures led to an improvement in economic activity since late May, but recent indicators suggest that this rebound is weakening as the rise in COVID-19 cases forces governments to reintroduce social distancing measures and international travel warnings. 
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SnapshotsSep 1, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A Legislative Proposal Reflects Russia's Post-Putin Dilemma
Moscow's push to limit the powers of future Russian presidents, including a new legislative proposal to strengthen the State Council, could expose President Vladamir Putin to potential challenges in upcoming election cycles. On Aug. 26, members of the Russian State Duma said they were preparing a bill that proposed moving the purview of foreign and domestic policy decisions from the presidency to the State Council. The Kremlin has also stated that executive-level discussions about the future role and responsibilities of the State Council are ongoing. Russian leaders are seeking reforms to shore up institutional powers over concerns that Putin's successors may not have the political strength or focus to maintain Russia's strong centralized leadership. The new constitutional amendment could also potentially extend Putin's rule until 2036 by resetting the number of presidential terms served prior to the change, which would theoretically provide Moscow with much more time to prepare for a
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AssessmentsAug 26, 2020 | 15:13 GMT
A close-up of a five-euro banknote.
The Eurozone's Upcoming Financial Problems
Escalating soverign debt and fiscal deficit levels in eurozone countries due to the COVID-19 crisis will increase the probability of financial and banking crises in the years ahead, as well as surges in social unrest and higher taxes for both large corporations and big earners. Furlough schemes, subsidies and other forms of welfare spending across the eurozone are mitigating the economic fallout from the pandemic by keeping money in people's pockets and helping sustain domestic consumption at a time of deep recessions. But these schemes are financed through sovereign debt, loans from EU institutions and deepening fiscal deficits -- all of which are unsustainable.
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AssessmentsAug 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A vintage map of the Middle East.
What's Driving Muslim Countries to Normalize Their Ties With Israel?
The waning influence of the pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism movements, combined with increasing U.S. pressure, will cause Oman, Bahrain and Morocco to soon join the United Arab Emirates in formalizing ties with Israel, accelerating a longer-term normalization trend that no longer hinges on the formation of a Palestinian state. The allure of Israel's technology and defense capabilities could also compel other Muslim states with covert ties and limited histories of overt conflict with Israel, such as Pakistan, to follow suit. Israel will, in turn, see expanding global economic ties that strengthen its post-pandemic recovery, as well as stronger regional allies that bolster its position against Iran should the upcoming U.S. election yield a less hawkish administration in Washington.
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SnapshotsAug 21, 2020 | 18:16 GMT
The U.S. ‘Snaps Back’ at Iran and the U.N. With Restored Sanctions
Iran will wait until after U.S. elections to decide whether to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in response to the United States' move to restore all U.N. sanctions. Europe, China and Russia, meanwhile, will forgo any large arms sales to Iran due to the expanded sanctions risk, despite not officially recognizing the U.S. action. On Aug. 20, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the United Nations that the U.S. government was "snapping back" all sanctions on Iran, citing Tehran's significant non-compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. The letter comes nearly a week after the U.N. Security Council rejected Washington's proposed resolution to indefinitely extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran. Only the Dominican Republic sided with the United States on extending the arms embargo, which is currently set to expire on Oct. 18.
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AssessmentsAug 17, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Steam and exhaust rise from a chemical company's coking plant in Oberhausen, Germany, on Jan. 6, 2017.
What the EU Green Deal Means For Governments and Companies
The European Union will increase pressure on private and public companies to reduce their carbon emissions in the coming years, and will also make significant funds available to help member states transition to cleaner energy. The actual implementation of the ambitious policies laid out in Brussels' Green Deal, however, will be slow and uneven due to the bloc's current pandemic-induced economic crisis, insufficient funding, internal political divisions, and limited access to the technologies needed to create more eco-friendly European economies. 
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