Gaza exporting flowers for Valentine's Day

Gaza will ship its first exports in over a year this week. Israel has agreed to a temporary lifting of its blockade on the territory so that flower-growers can ship 25,000 carnations to Europe in time for Valentine's Day at the request of the Dutch government. For the head of Gaza's flower growers association, the gesture is too little too late:

Mr Khalil said Gaza used to export as many as 40 million flowers a year, so he dismissed the shipment of 25,000 carnations as "insignificant".

"We had to feed the flowers to the animals because we couldn't export them," he said.

"We are afraid of losing our reputation in Europe and are afraid to plan ahead."

For more on the miracle of globalization that is the international flower industry, check out Amy Stewart's 2007 FP article, "Flower Power."



Russia finally does something right

The Russian central bank appears to have avoided a currency crisis this week, at least temporarily. Policymakers virtually painted a target on the ruble by announcing in late January that they had established a new floor on the currency in order to stabilize its slide. In fact, the opposite happened. Within days investors pushed the currency's value down against the floor, threatening to cause another large selloff of foreign exchange reserves in its defense.

After losing over a third of the country's reserves since August and having the government's debt rating lowered by Fitch last week, the central bank made a change of course by tightening interest rates, making speculation more costly and easing the pressure to draw down official reserves. The move even caused the ruble yesterday to make its biggest gains against the dollar and euro in the past two years, signaling a temporary stabilization.

While they are not out of the woods yet, the Russians seem to have finally taken a step in the right direction. And at time when everyone is focused on the mounting woes in the world economy, any good news on the economic front is welcome.