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[CBC] Caputia: 5 Years Later
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JUDAH, ANGLIA & ISRAAT – Sitting at a road side café in downtown Judah is a delight. I recently visited Judah after moving to Zalae from New Kirrie five years ago, and it’s flourished since the dark days of the vicious fighting that tore the nation apart for almost ten years.

The city was held by the National Salvation Front and is one of the central bastions of Caputian liberalism. George Blakeslee, the NSF’s most high-profile member, has taken up a second home in the city to cultivate relationship with the deep networks of fundraising and party talent he needs to seize official control of the party’s apparatus ahead of its first convention next year.

The scent of the coffee and the pastries, the reflection of the sun off the windows of storefronts and cars in the street. It was a delightful afternoon. The coffeehouse’s selection of local coffee and foreign teas was exceptional. Sitting along the city’s Boardwalk, I compared it to New Kirrie and Porapa.

The city was a rarity in that it was spared the brunt of the national devastation. It kept its ports, airports and factories, themselves built up by the enormous amounts of aid flowing from abroad that the National Salvation Front received during the war.

Its factories built a generation of tanks and fighters for the resistance against General Augustus Eliphas and his National Provisional Authority. Its ports imported millions in food, medicine and humanitarian aid and later hosted the Judah Command of the COFN peacekeeping mission.

But the recovery has been slow and painful in other places. The war devastated much of central Caputia and left the key economic centers of old like Porapa and New Kirrie, in ruins.

At the height of the war, the current capital, Zalae, saw a bloody government siege to suppress a strong insurgency of Ravaillac Loyalists, supported by the Hammish Republican Army. The urban warfare that characterized the vicious putdown of rebel factions can still be seen today as the city rebuilds.

Recovery in these three cities has been difficult, fraught with complicated situations like the disarming of landmines and the immense environmental impacts of war. Much of the country remains contaminated by the deliberate targeting by all sides of the civil war to of crucial infrastructure like dams, water treatment facilities, roads, canals, and factories.

The worst of the damage is concentrated in the fields between Porapa and New Kirrie, where Ground Zero is.

Ground Zero envelops much of the area between Porapa and New Kirrie, with its central base of operations located in Military Base XVIII. This bases’ main mission is the cleanup of the biological weapons accident outside Porapa that brought the Alexandrian flu, and the dismantling of the NPA’s stockpile of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons at Porapa’s Iron Point Base.

The area has been cordoned off from the rest of the country as the Government struggles with the cleanup and containment of a disease that killed two thirds of the mainland Caputia population and consumed the Alexandrian Empire.

Despite having contained the spread of the disease, the cure’s discovery came as the war had reached its end in 1653, five years ago. The devastation wrought by the Alexandrian flu still holds the consciousness of the nation hostage.

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A Growing Economy

Despite the arduous reconstruction process, Caputia has nurtured a nascent free-market tradition and the recovery has maintained a strong history of private commercial activity. A stable national security government has added security and stability, leading to increased foreign direct investment and the growth of Caputian exports. Even though there has been violence between vested interests of different confessional groups in the country, there has been some progress in reforming the economy. Legislation introducing a new currency and establishing a financial system has attract foreign investment and public–private partnerships have risen to address serious infrastructure shortcomings.

The economy's fast paced growth slowed in 1657 because of ongoing fiscal and current-account deficits, and uncertainty around future economic reforms including a new tax code and further development of the national and local regulatory and judicial systems. The Government has explained it will address the contraction with increased infrastructure and social spending, tax reform and expanding export markets for Caputian products.

Here in Judah, I was able to meet with Prime Minister Christophe Landry where we spoke about the economy and the Government's plan to address the latest economic news.

"The Government is committed to reducing unemployment, whipping inflation and rebuilding our country," explained the Prime Minister. "Our economic record so far reflects that commitment and we'll fight the slowdown with greater foreign trade, streamlining the tax code, and keeping a regulatory system that makes sense and is easy for businesses and entrepreneurs to comply with."

He listed several key initiatives that the Government planned to address before the current Parliamentary session ends on 11 Regnuary 1660 and the country heads into its first national parliamentary elections.

"First, we have to get free, fair and open elections organized for 1660. Second, we'll address the uncertainty around the tax code by introducing a Taxation Act that will set a 10.8% flat tax earned income, a national sales tax of 6%, and a competitive corporate tax rate of 20%. And we'll keep negotiating trade deals with foreign countries and we'll keep investing in building roads, bridges, dams and new cities."

The Rule of Law

Reconstruction efforts and economic reforms have reaffirmed rights of private ownership and have simplified property registration procedures. The judiciary is still relatively underdeveloped and understaffed, and real reform is needed to eliminate the sway local political forces have over the regional and local patchwork of courts and insular judicial bureaucracies.

The national Government has cracked down on government corruption nationwide, but in many parts of the country outside of the Royal District of Zalae, corruption is reportedly pervasive in local government contracting, primarily in procurement, public works, and real estate. Bribes customarily accompany bureaucratic transactions in many city and local governments, notorious for their arbitrary licensing, outdated laws, and high fees.

Despite record growth and ease of business registration, high unemployment and a large informal economy persist.

The Growing National Debt

Caputia's gross government debt of 70% may look small in comparison to the debts of many other countries around Micras. But its high interest rates of around 13% has made government borrowing costly to service.

It has grown from 50% to 70% in five years as the Government  started taking up large projects largely financed through government borrowing, such as the construction of a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Rodinia River southwest of the city of San Luis.

Debt payments eat up more than 8% of output. To let businesses and consumers borrow at less exorbitant rates, public banks have increasingly filled the gap, offering cheap, subsidized loans. These went from 40% of all lending five years ago to 55%.

Work by the Government to secure private investment through public-private partnerships and significant foreign aid is likely to help the Government borrow less in the future. However, to date, no announcements have been made by the Government on how to slash the debt and fix the budget.

The Future

Despite the many challenges that the Caputian reconstruction faces and slowed growth, optimism persists throughout the country for the recovery. 

At least here in Judah, the Prime Minister was clear about the future's potential. He visited the opening of the Port of Judah expansion and dredge project which increased its capacity and improved connections to nearby roads, airports and railways.

"There's still a lot of work to do. We've got some big jobs ahead of us and it's going to take tough decisions. I'm not going to shy away from them. We'll continue to grow and our economy will too," explained the Prime Minister. "This is just one project out of many that are still to be completed, imagine the growth we will see as these projects begin to power our recovery. It will be great, and our people will thrive."

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Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I
(formerly known as Regina Ravaillac)
Queen of the Kingdom of the Union of Caputia

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