A Pandemic, an Oil Rout and Market Turmoil: Weekend Reads

(Bloomberg) —

At a time of peak instability, this week has been especially rocky.

What began with an oil rout that saw prices plummet after a breakdown in talks between OPEC and Russia saw Saudi Arabia kick off a price war ended with days of market turmoil fueled by fears of the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy is in lockdown, the U.S. administration is in turmoil over the failure of President Donald Trump’s address to the nation to win the confidence of voters, and Iran’s resilience is being pushed to the limit. And COVID-19 has yet to run its course.

We hope you enjoy these and more of our best stories from the past seven days in this edition of Weekend Reads and click here for Bloomberg’s most compelling political images of the week.

Italy’s Nightmare Offers a Chilling Preview of What’s ComingIn just days, a Western democracy went from Aperol Spritz to lockdown, as the outbreak became a national crisis. As Vernon Silver, Alessandra Migliaccio and John Follain explain, Italy has key lessons for the rest of the world: impose harsh rules, fast, and make sure your message is clear.

Behind Lebanon’s First Default Lies a Slow, Painful UnravelingOnce the banking capital of the Middle East, Lebanon has prided itself on its laissez-faire reputation as a hub for free trade and free speech in a turbulent region. Now, through a mix of mismanagement and corruption, a class of politicians and their business partners bled the country to the point of bankruptcy, Lin Noueihed writes.

The Changing Winners and Losers From Oil’s Historic PlungeOil price shocks always divide the world’s economies into winners and losers, sometimes producing lasting geopolitical change — and this time is unlikely to be different. But as Marc Champion reports, it’s hard to predict the impact of sub-$30 oil on governments around the world.

Putin Saw a World in Turmoil and Decided It Needs More PutinVladimir Putin changed his mind and backed a plan to allow him to run for two more presidential terms because of the current turbulent period in the world, in a move that would let him rule Russia until 2036. Of course, as Andrey Biryukov and Evgenia Pismennaya write, he’s had a hand in some of the latest turmoil.

Saudi Succession in Focus as Crown Prince Clears His Own PathWhen Saudi Arabia was ruled by an aged King Abdullah, half-brother of the current monarch, there was uncertainty about who would emerge as next in line to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter. That’s no longer an issue, writes Glen Carey.

Iran’s Resilience Tested as Virus Delivers a Devastating BlowWith the collapse in oil prices and a coronavirus outbreak, Iran’s living through a perfect storm some in Washington believe the Islamic Republic will be unable to survive. It’s easy to see why those driving the administration’s maximum pressure policy may think that moment is fast approaching, Marc Champion, Nick Wadhams and Golnar Motevalli explain.

Aboard Air Force One, Trump Was Shaken Into Action on VirusAs Air Force One sped toward Washington, the impact of the coronavirus outbreak became inescapable for the U.S. president. It’s presented the most severe threat to the economy since Trump entered office, endangering his best argument for a second term: that he’s made Americans more prosperous, Justin Sink, Saleha Mohsin, Jennifer Jacobs and Shawn Donnan explain.

Seattle’s Patient Zero Spread Coronavirus Despite Ebola-Style LockdownThe man who would become Patient Zero for the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. appeared to do everything right. Yet as Peter Robison, Dina Bass and Robert Langreth write, the most careful medical detective work that followed wasn’t enough to slow a virus moving faster than the world’s efforts to contain it.

After Toppling Mahathir, Malaysia’s Newest Leader Needs AlliesFor a week, he patiently waited in the shadows as Malaysia’s two political giants — Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim — vied for the numbers to become prime minister. But when the dust settled, it was little-known Muhyiddin Yassin who emerged on top, Anisah Shukry and Philip J. Heijmans report.

China on the Defensive to Safeguard the Economy and Xi JinpingAs the coronavirus ravaged China, prompting nations to shun Chinese visitors and reassess supply chains, diplomats have played defense to protect the home front. That’s meant two things, Peter Martin writes: restoring China’s reputation among foreign companies and ensuring the Communist Party maintains its grip on power.

And finally … The melting glaciers of the Himalayas have become a political tool in the tussle between China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As Archana Chaudhary and Faseeh Mangi report, the Nubra valley was once a part of the ancient Silk Road trading route that connected Asia with Persia and Europe. Now it’s a staging post in the inexorable advance of climate change.


To contact the author of this story: Ruth Pollard in New Delhi at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Maier at [email protected]

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