Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera 30 Dec 2019

How 2019 events shaped the world of business and economics

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In this episode of Counting the Cost, we look back at the year 2019: people from Latin America to the Middle East took to the street to protest the unequal spread of wealth and demand that governments end austerity; a trade war between the United States and China has put the breaks on global growth and is reshaping globalisation.

But the biggest story of the year 2019 has to be climate change and the lack of will to do anything about it.

Climate crisis: With the exception of the European Union, there is very little effort to reduce emissions. The cost of our inaction has been put at $2bn a day. The United Nations says that $48 trillion needs to be spent by 2050 to avoid catastrophe to humanity; that means putting survival before short term profits.

Teresa Bo reports from Brazil on the threat of deforestation, the Amazon crisis and President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policies.

Raheela Mahomed reports from East Kalimantan, Indonesia, on the environmental cost of moving the capital from sinking Jakarta to Borneo.

Lucia Newman reports from Santiago on the continuing protests in Chile and how the economic and social crisis has spiralled into a political one.

US-China trade war: The idea of globalisation has come under attack - from President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India", while the trade war between the US and China has taken a few points off global growth. The biggest losers have been exporting nations like Germany and Japan.

Scott Heidler looks at some of the benefits from Bangkok. And Tanvir Chowdhury reports from Tongi, Bangladesh on the rise of steel prices thanks to the US trade war.

Africa Continental Free Trade Area: In May 2019, a new economic bloc was born: 54 nations came together to form the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. The aim of the bloc is to increase trade between nations by tearing down trade barriers - in the hope of becoming the next European Union. Ahmed Idriss reports from the Nigeria-Benin border.

Healthcare in the US: Who should be responsible for providing healthcare? The state or for-profit organisations?

Shihab Rattansi reports from the US on how the health insurance industry is failing patients.


For years, private armies have provided services to governments around the world. They are often secretive and operate in the shadows.

Blackwater - now known as Academi - is one of the most well-known private armies. It has provided troops and other services to the US government in different conflicts, including the Iraq war.

But it is not always clear how these private armies are formed, where they operate, or even what their missions consist of.

Eeben Barlow is chairman of 'Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection International' - a private army that - according to Barlow - has operated throughout Africa and beyond. He was also behind another similar company that shut down in 1998 - called Executive Outcomes.

And while many argue private armies are mercenaries doing the jobs governments do not want to do - Barlow insists his operations are legitimate and follow international law.

"We don't see ourselves as mercenaries. We are first of all contracted by a national government. We become part of their armed forces, we wear their uniforms, we follow their procedures and guidelines, we fall under the legal regulations of that country. So, in other words, we serve the country that contracts us. And yes, we get paid for it, but we certainly don't get paid to run around and cause chaos," says Barlow.

Some private military contractors have been accused of prolonging conflicts instead of ending them, but Barlow believes that "there is a fine line between moral and immoral".

"But that really goes back to the people that are involved ... We've never prolonged a conflict, in fact, we've ended them despite them carrying on for decades and decades. We've ended them in a very short space of time. But I am aware of companies that do not mind if the conflict continues because that's the goose that lays the golden egg, and they certainly don't want to stop it," says Barlow.

He stresses the importance of cultural understanding and expertise needed to end conflicts across Africa.

"We are after all Africans that work in Africa. But I do think there is a major concern that Africans can actually end African conflicts," says Barlow.

"We look at all these private military companies going into Africa, they are just charging, they don't understand the environment they are in, they don't understand the area of operation, they don't understand the people and very quickly, they offend people ... If they are not going to add value and bring about ... stability and peace, then they shouldn't be there. But unfortunately, this has been allowed to drag on."

So who makes sure these armies are indeed following international law? How do they operate? And is there accountability?

Eeben Barlow provides an insight into the world of private military contractors as he talks to Al Jazeera about his company's role in fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, the LRA in Uganda and other conflicts across Africa.
For years, private armies have provided services to governments around the world. They are often secretive and operate in the shadows.

Blackwater - now known as Academi - is one of the most well-known private armies. It has provided troops and other services to the US government in different conflicts, including the Iraq war.

But it is not always clear how these private armies are formed, where they operate, or even what their missions consist of.

Eeben Barlow is chairman of 'Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection International' - a private army that - according to Barlow - has operated throughout Africa and beyond. He was also behind another similar company that shut down in 1998 - called Executive Outcomes.

And while many argue private armies are mercenaries doing the jobs governments do not want to do - Barlow insists his operations are legitimate and follow international law.
So who makes sure these armies are indeed following international law? How do they operate? And is there accountability?

Eeben Barlow provides an insight into the world of private military contractors as he talks to Al Jazeera about his company's role in fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, the LRA in Uganda and other conflicts across Africa.
For more than half a century, Scotland-born Don Cameron has been a pioneer in the world of hot air balloons.

He built and flew western Europe's first modern hot air balloon in 1967, before founding his company Cameron Balloons from the basement of his flat.

The company has since become one of the world's largest balloon manufacturers, making hundreds of balloons each year.

It is the market leader in special-shaped balloons, producing the likes of Darth Vader, Vincent van Gogh and a dinosaur.

Video by Morgan Spence
You've seen them on TV - the dogs who run, jump, balance and zig-zag on specially designed obstacle courses in the ultra-competitive sport of dog agility. We meet the dedicated handlers looking for major honours at the world famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York - and the dogs who have to perform on the big day

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