The beatification of Nelson Mandela by the world's press and politicians sits uneasily with me as with some others (see the piece by Simon Jenkins at the Guardian). All statesmen and leaders have their weaknesses, and sometimes it takes the distance of time to truly assess the greatness of someone like Nelson Mandela. South Africa today is riven by inequality, unemployment, social deprivation, corruption and crime. Mandela's new South Africa has economic apartheid, with large chunks of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few (mainly white) elites. The new South Africa has all the trappings of democracy, but, in effect, it is a one-party state with all the problems that this brings. The big challenge for South Africa is how it becomes a competitive democracy which spreads wealth around without destroying the businesses and corporations which produce, and will continue to produce, that wealth. Click here to read an op-ed at the New Yorker on Mandela's economic legacy.
As an undergraduate, I was taught about the failure of Herstatt Bank in 1974 and Herstatt risk. This bank was only the 35th largest bank in Germany at the time so why would anyone be interested in studying its failure? Herstatt failed because of its involvement in risky foreign exchange business. When it closed its doors on 26 June 1974, counterparty banks (mainly in New York) had not received dollars due to them because of time-zone differences - this is known as settlement risk. The cross-jurisdictional implications of its failure resulted in the Bank for International Settlements setting up the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Herstatt's failure was a key reason for the establishment of real-time gross settlements systems, which ensures that payments between two banks are executed in real time. The Bank of England's Ben Norman has an interesting post on Herstatt over at the Bank's new blog ( Bank Underground ). As well as giving an excellent overview of