Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 leaves little to rejoice about

Oil prices, China, the US election & a global recession dominated 2008
2008 has been an eventful year but perhaps it is the cataclysmic events that have left the most lasting of memories. January saw the price of oil pass the $100 per barrel mark. The month also saw a stand off between Iranian forces and US warships over territorial water disputes. The year also started with Israeli incursions into Gaza leaving nearly 50 Palestinians dead. Financial markets were also rocked after rogue trader Jerome Kerviel lost more than €4.9 billion for the French bank Societe Generale in what at the time was described as a “large scale internal fraud” by President Sarkozy.

China saw the beginning of what was a turbulent year after thousands became stranded in the worst snow storms the country had seen for years. The clear up continued well into February and left dozens dead. The US also experienced rare February storms which left around 60 dead. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra played a rare concert in North Korea to soften the diplomatic tension between the two countries. But tensions continued in many other countries. Violent clashes occurred in Serbia and Kosovo after the latter declared its independence and bombings continued to wreak havoc in Iraq and Pakistan.

In March Dmitry Medvedev won the Russian election but was widely seen as Putin’s puppet. Attempts at developing a peace process in the Middle East once again fell on stony ground and incursions and terrorist attacks continued. China returned to the headlines after riots in Tibet left up to 100 dead and the fallout became a PR disaster for the country after protests followed the Olympic torch around the globe during April. There were further troubles after a train crash in Shandong province left 70 dead.

May became a cause for celebration for many Londoners after Boris Johnson won the Mayoral election. But it was the natural disaster in Myanmar which dominated headlines after a cyclone left thousands dead and without help as the country’s dictatorship refused foreign aid. China was the next victim after a massive earthquake struck Sichuan province. Around 80,000 died in the earthquake and a quarter of a million were injured, but China was far more accepting of foreign help, though it was less appreciative of the criticism of its building regulations after it emerged many schools appeared to have been badly built. May also saw oil rise beyond $135 per barrel leaving many motorists around the world with increased running costs.

June brought further rises in the price of fuel and tanker strikes in Britain which nearly saw the pumps run dry. Zimbabwe was once again in the news after Robert Mugabe stole another election. But in the US election Hillary Clinton finally conceded defeat in her bid as Democratic candidate and endorsed Barack Obama. China once again suffered the wrath of nature’s power after floods left millions homeless and more than a hundred dead.

July saw violence return to Israel after a man used a tractor to unleash an attack on civilians. Four were killed and nearly 40 were injured before the man was shot dead by police. Bomb attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan left more than 60 dead. July also saw the first signs of the impending recession after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ran into trouble and stock markets around the world began to fluctuate wildly. But it was the Olympics which hit the headlines as August arrived. However, despite the show of the century, the media could not help but criticise the poor air quality, the arrests of foreign journalists and highlight terrorist attacks that struck in parts of the country.

As the US election campaign got into full swing the financial crisis began to bite hard and one institution after another began to fold. China was also suffering from its own crisis after it was revealed that milk had been contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine leaving thousands sick and at least four babies dead. But it was the financial downturn that gripped most people’s attention well into October. Almost everyday there was further bad news as one company after another announced it was running into financial difficulty.

November brought with it a moment of history after Barack Obama became the first black American President. But the celebrations were short lived as the reality of the deepening financial crisis set in. There was further tragedy after Pakistani terrorists killed dozens on the streets of Mumbai in India. A three day siege ensued and around 156 were killed. India was left reeling from the attacks and there were calls from many to retaliate against Pakistan. THere was no retaliation, though tensions remain high between the two nuclear powers.

December saw Greece gripped by riots after police shot a young teenager dead. Zimbabwe, already suffering from financial collapse, was now becoming the victim of a cholera pandemic which Mugabe blamed on the West. But the West was more concerned with its own demise as one company after another shut its doors. For many retailers it was far from a very merry Christmas as many were forced to slash prices in order to drum up trade. And in the Middle East, the birthplace of Christ, it ended much as it had begun with Israeli bombardments on Gaza and with tanks preparing to roll into the Palestinian territory.

No comments: