GOING TO MARS? Join the queue. This week two spacecraft set off for the red planet. On July 20th, from a site in Japan, the United Arab Emirates launched Al Amal (meaning “hope”), which will study the Martian weather from orbit, Three days later China sent Tian-wen 1 (“heavenly questions”), comprising an orbiter, a lander and a rover. On July 30th NASA, America’s space agency, hopes to launch Perseverance, another rover, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Why the rush? This is a good time to go: the current alignment of Earth and Mars cuts the journey time to less than seven months. (It’s still 100m kilometres.) Perseverance and eventually Rosalind Franklin, a European rover whose launch has been delayed until 2022, will try to learn whether there has ever been life on Mars. If the planet is not sterile, the risk that Earthly visitors, even robots, might contaminate its ecosystem, and scientific findings, is real. Rovers and landers already there contain thousands of microscopic Earthlings. Future missions may have to retrieve what their predecessors have left.
A generational shift in economic thinking was under way even before the coronavirus struck. Since the financial crisis of 2007-09 stubbornly low inflation, despite ultra-low interest rates (and until this year, low unemployment), had called received policy wisdom into question. So had concern about the unequal distribution of economic spoils. And so, in different ways, had the rise of shadow banks and digital technology. But in just a few months, the covid-19 pandemic has caused governments to rewrite their economic rule-books in a hurry. They are spending and borrowing on a scale unthinkable at the turn of the year, and backstopping companies’ debts and workers’ jobs. The era of free money and the big state is likely to last. It creates opportunities, not least for better infrastructure and health care. But it raises dangers, too. Even if inflation stays low, a bigger state is prone to capture by lobbyists and cronies.
A prime example of governments’ new largesse emerged in Brussels early on July 21st, after several days (and nights) of haggling. The European Union’s 27 members agreed on a €750bn package (4.7% of the EU’s annual GDP) to help the bloc’s weakest economies recover from covid-19. The EU has never borrowed jointly on such a scale before; and €390bn will be disbursed as grants, breaching a red line against fiscal transfers. Though not the “Hamiltonian” moment some had hoped for—existing debts will not be pooled—the EU has set a welcome precedent. In America, however, a partisan battle is brewing over a new stimulus deal. Supplements to unemployment insurance and a suspension of evictions, under the $2.2trn CARES Act, expire this month. Agreement on a new law before then is unlikely. Millions could suffer.
In 2016 Donald Trump won the American presidency in the Midwest. In 2020 he may lose it there—or, defying the polls, win it there once more. But the region has more than political heft: its population is as big as Britain’s and its economy is as big as Germany’s. It also has its share of troubles. It has suffered decades of industrial decline—for which Detroit, despite recent improvement, is still a byword. Racial segregation in its cities is pronounced even by American standards. It was on a street in Minneapolis that George Floyd was killed by a white policeman. But in a special report this week we point to the Midwest’s successes. Some of its cities offer lessons for others to follow, not just in the region but farther afield. Columbus, with its diversified economy, is one of America’s fastest-growing cities. Central Chicago’s population has surged. And the old steel city of Pittsburgh has remade itself as a high-tech hub.
According to official statistics, Tanzania is an economic star. The World Bank has just promoted it to “lower-middle-income” status (threshold: $1,036 per person per year) five years ahead of the government’s schedule. But the figures are fishy. The government says that GDP grew by 7% in the year to June 2019. If that is so, why did tax revenue fall and bank lending slump? And why did the sales of the biggest brewers fall? IMF economists smelt something amiss, but their report (seen by The Economist) was blocked by the Tanzanian authorities. The fund backed down, publishing flattering official figures. An MP has been arrested for doubting GDP figures and a newspaper closed for publishing accurate exchange rates. President John Magufuli, who is seeking re-election, should stop the fibs. And the fund should stop accepting them.
By The Economist https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/07/24/all-aboard-for-mars