Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Leverage & Expectations

One major factor in Honolulu's housing crunch is how distance makes everything expensive. That includes skilled construction labor:
Those in the business say it’s all about the potential risk of not having enough qualified workers to do the job. The construction labor pool is stretched thin. In the past year, construction jobs in Honolulu have increased by 16 percent, tied for the fifth-highest jump among U.S. metro areas, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. 
Contractors say that some of those workers are less productive, meaning a job might take longer or require more fixes. It might be hard just to find the requisite subcontractors to get the job done. 
During the lean years, experts say, contractors bid for jobs promising little or no profit just to keep people working. Now they are making sure that their costs are covered — and then some. In other words, they’re making healthy profits. 
Some may see this as gouging. But in a business very sensitive to the ups and downs of the business cycle, contractors see it as a case of making hay while the sun shines.
“I don’t think anyone is doing it maliciously or greedily,” said Dan Jordan, co-owner of Honolulu Builders.
John Hill, Honolulu Civil Beat

Beijing is getting diplomatic leverage out of Taiwan's itinerant ATM scammers. Despite recent court rulings, African countries who arrest the fraudsters are deporting them to mainland China, regardless of whether they can convict them or not. As a result Taipei's diplomats are on the defensive:
“The ministry will not protect any bad guys, but in this case, the suspects were acquitted by a local court [in Kenya] and ordered deported back to Taiwan,” Department of West Asian and African Affairs Director-General Chen Chun-shen (陳俊賢) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday. 
Chen said that if the ministry did not endeavor to protect the five Taiwanese who were deported to China on Sunday after being acquitted by a Kenyan court, it would create a dangerous precedent that might encourage Beijing to abduct any Taiwanese suspected of wrongdoing anywhere in the world. 
It could happen to anyone, including you and me, and lead to a severe infringement of Taiwanese people’s human rights, Chen said. 
“Given that there are millions of Taiwanese who travel overseas each year ... the ministry has to safeguard their safety and human rights while they are abroad,” Chen said.
Stacy Hsu, Taipei Times

Australia's offshore detention scheme for asylum seekers has been losing the public opinion wars, and now it's losing in contractors' boardrooms as well. It would seem draconian border controls are bad for business, in more ways than one:
Confronted with mounting risks and liabilities, Ferrovial, the Spanish multinational that runs the camps on Nauru and Manus, has committed not to retender when its current contract expires. The contract was to end in February next year, but the Australian government recently extended it for a further eight months. Now Ferrovial must either exit the camps, or become mired in material risk – including operational uncertainty, exposure to legal action and the devastation of its reputation – until October 2017.

Ferrovial’s financial stakeholders have also come under fire. A recent reportreleased by the Human Rights Law Centre and GetUp’s No Business in Abuse campaign reveals the global banks and corporate investors linked to the offshore camps through their relationship with Ferrovial, and calls on them to take immediate action to end the business relationships that associate them with gross human rights abuse.

Already the Norwegian Central Bank, which holds a stake in Ferrovial, has acknowledged the potential for an ethical problem and referred the issue to Norway’s Council on Ethics for an independent judgment. This response will sound a warning to Ferrovial’s prospective successors: business in abuse will hurt you.

Ferrovial’s decision to walk away ought to deter any company considering profiting from human suffering. The government’s decision to unilaterally extend the offshore contract despite Ferrovial’s clear indication that it does not want to continue its work in the camps certainly suggests that the market is not crowded with contractors eager to step into Ferrovial’s shoes.
Rachel Ball & Daniel Webb in The Guardian

Finally, Deutsche Welle interviewed the new UN Rapporteur for North Korea, who's already managing expectations:
Your predecessor, Marzuki Darusman, was not allowed into North Korea while he served as rapporteur. Why should things be any different once you take over? 
It wasn't only Marzuki, but also his predecessor, Vitit Muntarbhorn, who couldn't visit the country - and don't forget that there are some UN agencies working inside the country, including UNDP, UNICEF, and WHO. 
In my view, the question is not whether there is now any difference. The point is to be alert and ready for any available opportunity for dialogue and cooperation. What I would like to see, to start with, is that the authorities open themselves up more. I am blind neither to the results of different strategies that have been implemented for years, nor to the DPRK's stances and maneuvers. 
I was the special rapporteur for Myanmar from 2008 to 2014. The country, which was ruled by a military junta for about 40 years until 2011, decided to cooperate with me and opened itself for me to visit, which I did, nine times. 
There are some parallels between the situation in Myanmar and the one in North Korea, but of course there are also differences.
Esther Felden,

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