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World sitting on powder-keg

world Updated: Mar 22, 2009 01:39 IST
British thinktank

A leading British thinktank has warned of the "grave threat" of social unrest in response to the global recession over the next two years.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in a paper published Friday, rated the risk of upheaval that could “disrupt economies and topple governments” as “high or very high” in 95 countries. “Popular anger around the world is growing as a result of rising unemployment, pay cuts and freezes, bail-outs for banks, and falls in house prices and the value of savings and pension funds," said the EIU paper, entitled Manning the Barricades.

“As people lose confidence in the ability of governments to restore stability, protests look increasingly likely.” A spate of incidents in recent months had shown that the global economic downturn was having political repercussions.

“This is being seen as a harbinger of worse to come. There is growing concern about a possible global pandemic of unrest,” said the paper. Top of the list of high-risk countries were Zimbabwe, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia and Sudan.

However, three of the European Union's neighbours — Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia-Herguegovina — were rated as being at “very high risk” of social upheaval. The paper pointed out that two European governments —in Iceland and in Latvia — had already fallen as a result of crisis.

In Europe, Britain was “not immune” from the danger of serious social unrest and “more likely” to suffer from it than Germany and the Netherlands, but “less likely” than France and the US. A lot depended on how United States President Barack Obama responded to pressure to “defend American jobs and companies against foreign imports,” said the paper.

“As the downturn worsens, far more intense and long-lasting events can be expected, such as armed rebellions, military coups, civil conflicts and perhaps even wars between states,” it said.