Buffett’s legacy • India’s nightmare • Germany’s green judgment • Somaliland’s unrecognised success

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ONCE INCONCEIVABLE, a world without banks can nowadays just be discerned on the horizon. As never before, their role is under threat from new technology, capital markets and even the public sector. Whizzy fintech platforms are eating into their business. Venture capitalists are gaining in importance at the expense of traditional moneylenders. And central banks are threatening them with the most startling disintermediation of all: the evolution of government-backed digital currencies. Of the big economies, China is furthest advanced in the digitalisation both of the financial sector and of central banking. There as elsewhere, however, as finance shifts online, so does financial crime. New technology has enabled cyber-crime on an industrial scale.


Warren Buffett has long been the world’s most celebrated investor, having turned Berkshire Hathaway into a conglomerate spanning everything from railways and real estate to insurance and ice cream. But its recent performance looks less than stellar. Its shares underperformed the S&P 500 index in both 2019 and 2020. It is probably time for the 90-year-old Mr Buffett to hand over to his designated successor. Berkshire Hathaway is often viewed as a barometer of the broader economy, and in the first quarter of this year its profits rebounded. The recovery can also be seen in commodity markets, and in polling showing that in America economic confidence is back to pre-pandemic levels.


India’s second wave of covid-19 makes it the centre of the pandemic, with suffering worsened by shortages of oxygen and hospital beds. The difficulties are especially acute in the capital, Delhi. As the virus has spread, the government of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has looked increasingly hapless. State-level election results delivered a rebuke from Indian voters. To help its own citizens, India has stopped exporting vaccines, creating problems for many countries, notably in Africa. India has been among the countries campaigning for a waiver of World Trade Organisation intellectual-property rules to make vaccine production and distribution easier. This week America backed the calls. Globally, vaccine donations have failed to take off, and vaccine hesitancy continues to hamper efforts to combat the pandemic.


The decision by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court to declare the country’s climate-change law partly unconstitutional was hailed even by politicians who had helped pass the legislation as “epoch-making”. The law decreed that by 2030 carbon emissions must be cut by 55% from the level of 1990, and that, like the rest of the EU, Germany would aim by 2050 to be emitting no net greenhouse gases. The court ruled that the combination of the two pledges seemed to allow governments to impose a greater share of the total burden of decarbonisation on the future. So it demanded intermediate targets. Its reservations about the law apply well beyond Germany.


Since breaking away from Somalia in 1991,Somaliland has become a functioning state in all but name, with 4.5m people in an area bigger than Florida. It has been largely peaceful. It controls its borders and its territory, unlike Somalia’s government, which controls little more than its capital city, and that only thanks to 20,000 foreign peacekeepers. Whereas Somalia has not held a direct election since the 1960s, Somaliland periodically votes for its president and lawmakers. Yet in the eyes of the world Somaliland remains part of Somalia. It is time for other countries to recognise it, and international organisations to treat it like a state.