The Great Debate UK

Bank of England’s focus on growth might stir ghost of inflation

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–Darren Williams is Senior European Economist at AllianceBernstein. The opinions expressed are his own.–

The Bank of England appears to have moved the goalposts. After 30 years of focusing almost exclusively on inflation, monetary policy is now being more explicitly directed toward generating faster growth and lower unemployment.

Earlier this year, the need to stimulate the British economy was articulated by Chancellor George Osborne,  when he told the Bank of England to be more flexible with its inflation target and to think carefully about the trade-off between combating inflation and the impact on the real economy. The Chancellor made it very clear that the Bank would be held accountable for this judgement.

Mark Carney seems to be taking this advice seriously. The new governor recently said that the Monetary Policy Committee would weigh the “potential trade-offs” between growth and inflation as part of its decision on when to raise interest rates. He pointed out that: “Such policy trade-offs will inform future MPC decisions on the timing of any Bank Rate increase after the threshold is reached,” referring to the 7.0% unemployment rate which underpins the Bank’s forward guidance.

from The Great Debate:

Longer lives would lead to better living

Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration ordered the Google-backed genetic testing company 23andMe to stop selling its home testing kits, arguing that the possibility of false positive readings for potentially fatal or debilitating conditions could prompt people to take unnecessary and potentially fatal medical action. The FDA should now work quickly to develop standards so that 23andMe and companies like it can get back to their vital businesses of working to extend the human life span.

Looking at the challenges facing us, you’d be forgiven for thinking that long lives are a problem. Humans face food shortages, the effects of climate change, and potential overcrowding on a global scale, as well as developed world retirement and healthcare systems that are ill-equipped to serve the needs of too many Methuselahs. But these problems might be more the result of short-term thinking rather than long-lived lives. The economist John Maynard Keynes once remarked, “In the long run, we are all dead.” We may have taken that too much to heart.

Happy Birthday, texting: 21 today

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–Iain Regan is global head of sales, marketing and customer management at Firstsource Solutions. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Text messaging feels like such a contemporary part of our lives that it is hard to believe that SMS is today marking its 21st anniversary. On 3 December 1992, Neil Papworth, a 22 year old test engineer for Sema Group in the UK used a PC to send the text message “Merry Christmas” via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis in Newbury.

from The Great Debate:

Don’t miss the boat on trade facilitation

Trade ministers open their meeting in Bali Tuesday with the aim of creating a new multilateral trade reform package worth more than $100 billion to the global economy. The deal -- focusing on measures to cut red tape at borders -- would be a welcome shot in the arm for both global trade and for the World Trade Organization itself.

This may come as a surprise to some. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations had quietly died after a 10-year struggle. But in fact, work has continued in the World Trade Organization -- and in capitals around the world -- to capture some of the gains from what was once billed as the most ambitious trade round ever. The first multilateral trade agreement in almost 20 years now stands tantalizingly within reach.

Sterling destined for safe haven status (at least in the short term)

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–Torben Kaaber is CEO of Saxo Capital Markets UK. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Sterling may not be a currency that investors immediately associate with safe haven status. Typically, safe havens in the currency world have been the triad of the U.S. dollar, the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen.

from The Great Debate:

A shifting global economy brings Australia to a crossroads

Australia is no longer immune to the stagnation in the West. Despite a resilient housing market, Australia’s economy is slowing. With a worsening labor market, consumption is eroding, along with business confidence.

In the past two years, the benchmark interest rate has been almost halved to 2.5 percent. Still, Australia’s real GDP growth is likely to decrease to 2.4 percent during the ongoing year and will remain barely 2 percent until the mid-2010s.

from The Great Debate:

Iran’s future is now

Whether by design or accident, the nuclear deal struck in Geneva this past weekend is about far more than centrifuges, enrichment and breakout times.

Ultimately, the success of the nuclear negotiations will help determine who and what will define Iran for the next few decades.

Multinational repositories can address nuclear waste stockpile

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–Behnam Taebi is assistant professor of philosophy, focusing on issues of ethics and nuclear power, at Delft University of Technology.–

Across much of the world, nuclear power continues to spawn controversy.  For instance, concern over the Fukushima site continues, and a risky, unprecedented operation has just begun to remove thousands of fuel rods.

from The Great Debate:

Antitrust enforcement goes global

As one of the world’s top cops on the antitrust beat, the U.S. has long led the fight to curtail price-fixing, collusion, and other anticompetitive behavior in global commerce. And the Justice Department’s antitrust division has wielded an especially big club of late.

In each of the past two years, criminal penalties in antitrust cases have exceeded more than $1 billion, thanks to groundbreaking settlements with DOJ following investigations into collusion in interbank lending rates among banks as well as price-fixing in the global auto parts industry. The $1.4 billion in fines collected in fiscal year 2012 was the largest recovery ever for the antitrust enforcement division in a 12-month span. Fiscal 2013 wasn’t far behind, hitting $1.02 billion.

from The Great Debate:

Can Obama ever close Guantanamo?

Twelve years ago this month, President George W. Bush issued an order authorizing the U.S. military to detain non-U.S. citizen “international terrorists” indefinitely, and try some of them in military commissions. Within two months, those seized in the “war on terror” following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan were being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

A dozen years later, the United States is preparing to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, ending “the longest war in American history,” as President Barack Obama observed on Veteran’s Day. Yet the Guantanamo prison -- now notorious as the site of torture and other abuses -- remains open.

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