From Volume 37, Issue 1 of EIR Online, Published Jan. 8, 2010

Global Economic News

China's Wen: Science, Technology the Key to Development

Dec. 27 (EIRNS)—Science and technology are "key to China's economic development," Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said on Dec. 27, in an interview with the government news agency Xinhua.

Historically, financial crises have always brought about technological revolution, Wen said. "The key to conquer the global economic crisis lies in people's wisdom and the power of science and technology."

Wen also said:

* China will not yield to pressure to revalue its currency, the yuan, or renminbi, in any form. "A stable Chinese currency is conducive to the international community," he said. Some countries demanded the yuan appreciation while practicing trade protectionism against China, said Wen, adding that this was aimed at checking China's development.

* China must fight for its right to further development, while addressing climate change issues. The fact that development is the top priority of developing nations must not be ignored.

* The goal of the nation's economic growth is to improve the people's well-being. He noted that the government had made great efforts to step up health-care infrastructure in both rural and urban areas. Reforms are also being made to make medicines more affordable.

* China will take measures to stabilize soaring housing prices and crack down on speculation.

'Lithuania Power Crisis Looms as Nuclear Plant Shuts'

Dec. 31 (EIRNS)—Under this headline, Britain's Daily Telegraph reports: "Lithuanians are braced for a devastating increase in energy prices when the struggling Baltic nation shuts down its main nuclear power station to comply with EU demands on New Year's Eve. Ignalina power station generates 70% of Lithuania's power output and its closure will force the country to fall back on its old master Russia to meet its domestic demand.

"Engineers are set to start shutting down the plant at 11 PM on December 31. Brussels regards the facility as a Chernobyl-sized threat and made its de-commissioning a condition of the country joining the European Union in 2004. But as a result, domestic fuel bills are projected to jump by 30% in 2010, a severe blow after the economy contracted by almost one-fifth in the last 12 months. Raimondas Kuodis, chief economist at Lithuania's central bank, said that soaring fuel bills would inflict further damage on the economy. 'A 30% hike in electricity prices will slash Gross Domestic Product by one percentage point and will increase inflation by almost one percentage point,' he explained.

"For many Lithuanians already battling rising unemployment and public spending cuts that have eaten into pensions and benefits, the higher fuel bills could prove intolerable." Moreover, "Lithuania and its Baltic peers Estonia and Latvia have not been fully integrated into European energy networks. Technical hurdles [make] importing energy from fellow EU states problematic. 'They are beginning to build inter-connectors to Sweden and other states, but isolation is still a real issue for them,' said Jerome Guillet, an energy consultant specializing in Central and Eastern Europe. 'This is something that Europe could have helped a bit more. Connections are being built but it takes time.'

"Lithuania plans to regain its domestic energy sufficiency by constructing of a new nuclear plant but cannot currently afford the £10 billion cost," the article ends.

Japan's Population in Largest-Ever Decline

Jan. 1 (EIRNS)—Japan's net fertility rate has been below breakeven for a long time, but the drastic consequences are only now taking hold. Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry reports that only 1,069,000 babies were born last year, down 22,000 from the year before, while 1,144,000 Japanese died, a rise of 2,000. This has resulted in Japan's largest-ever natural population decline of 75,000. The number of deaths surpassed that of births for the third straight year. The population is now roughly 127 million.

Twenty is the age of majority in Japan, but the number reaching that age was at a record low of 1,270,000 in 2009, says the Internal Affairs Ministry, which began to collect such data in 1968. The 20-year-olds now represent 1% of the Japanese population—also a record low ratio.

The Education Ministry reports that fully 13% of all public elementary and junior high school classrooms are no longer in use as classrooms. A ministry survey covered 460,000 classrooms, of which more than 61,000 are being used for other things. It expects the number of unused classrooms to further increase because of the continuing low birthrates, and will ask the boards of education to find other ways to use the classrooms.

All rights reserved © 2010 EIRNS