The Great Debate UK
Last November, at the time of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement, the two men in charge of our fiscal and monetary policy together delivered the gloomiest peacetime message in our history. Those of us who have been pessimistic all along were totally outflanked.
The governor of the Bank of England was absolutely right to decry the sudden vogue for technocracy. As he says, the problems in Europe are not fundamentally about a shortage of liquidity, as many commentators suggest and as politicians are only too happy to agree. They are at root about solvency, about the ability and the willingness of countries like Greece to pay their debts, and as such they are political problems which require political solutions. It is simply wishful thinking to imagine that an economics PhD somehow provides access to the secret of how to balance the books of a society which has long been living beyond its means, as have the majority of euro zone members. If it is hard for a Government with a sound electoral mandate to deliver painful medicine, it is likely to be even harder for one with no mandate at all.
Far from being evidence of maturity, the way the political class in Greece and Italy has given way to technocrats is a total abdication of responsibility. What needs to be done to transform the prospects of Greece and Italy, Spain and Portugal involves no rocket science. No advanced macroeconomic theory is needed to get the basics right: to cut Government spending, introduce honest tax collection (especially in Greece and Italy), privatise and deregulate transport systems and utilities, and most importantly to allow labour markets to function properly so as to reduce unemployment to a minimum, rather than to maximise it, as they do at the moment.
If this prescription sounds familiar, so it should. Britain’s situation in 1979 was not unlike that of the ClubMed countries today, with the sole, critical difference that we had been able to print our own money – which we did aplenty in the 1970’s, generating inflation as high as 25 percent by the middle of that awful decade. In the end, the situation was salvaged not by an economist, but by Mrs Thatcher, armed with nothing better than the Micawberish economics of her father’s Grantham grocery.
from The Great Debate:
Excerpted from The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen, by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2012 by Masha Gessen.
Encouraged by his former deputy’s meteoric rise, former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak decided to end his Paris exile and go back to Russia in the summer of 1999. He returned full of hope and even more full of ambition. As Sobchak was leaving Paris, Arkady Vaksberg, a forensics specialist turned investigative reporter and author with whom Sobchak had become friendly during his years in France, asked him whether he hoped to return to Paris as an ambassador. “Higher than that,” replied Sobchak. Vaksberg was sure the former mayor was aiming for the foreign minister’s seat: the rumor in Moscow’s political circles was that Sobchak would head up the Constitutional Court, the most important court in the country.
from The Great Debate:
By the end of today another 25,000 young children will have been robbed of their childhoods, cheated of their right to an education, exposed to life-threatening health risks, and set on a path that often leads to a life of servitude and poverty. Their plight is the result of widespread and systematic human rights violations. Yet the source of the injustice they suffer is hidden in the shadows of debates on international development: They are child brides.
Each year, 1.5 million girls -- many just starting their adolescent years -- become child brides. It was shocking for us to discover the sheer scale of the problem and to understand its impact on human rights and the life cycle of opportunities, and most tragically of all, on maternal and infant death rates.
-Paul Willis is head of aviation at consultancy EC Harris. The opinions expressed are his own.-
It is worrying that a recent study by independent consultancy Frontier Economics has shown that the UK is in danger of missing out on £14billion worth of trade from emerging markets due to its inadequate aviation links. Further research from the British Chamber of Commerce has also revealed that two-thirds of business leaders in Brazil, China, India, South Korea and Mexico are more likely to trade with France, Germany or Holland rather than the UK as they offer more direct flights.
from The Great Debate:
Amid all the doom and gloom about Greece in the last few weeks, it is easy to overlook an important piece of good news: the debt exchange offer published by Greece on Friday with endorsement by its main private and official creditors. If implemented, this would be a major achievement and an important step toward overcoming the euro zone crisis, almost regardless of what happens next.
Under the offer, bondholders would receive 15 percent of the face value of their bonds in the form of short-term European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bonds, plus a set of new Greek sovereign bonds maturing between 2023 and 2042, with a 31.5 percent face value.
from The Great Debate:
One question is of paramount importance: How can we use this current public conversation to finally drive a different outcome? What must companies do so that 15 years after Kathie Lee Gifford tearfully became the first sweatshop poster child, workers who make and grow products for global consumers are paid fairly, protected from danger and free to advocate for themselves without fear of reprisal?
The once-good relationship between Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and his most likely successor, Deputy Governor Paul Tucker, is coming under increasing strain, according to a new book by former Daily Telegraph journalist Dan Conaghan. It alleges King’s management style and and alleged disdain for the financial markets is to blame.
While the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee remains reasonably collegiate, on other matters King more than lives up to the description from former chancellor Alistair Darling that he is ‘incredibly stubborn’, says Conaghan, who now worksas an asset manager.
from Paul Smalera:
Lately Internet users in the U.S. have been worried about censorship, copyright legalities and data privacy. Between Twitter’s new censorship policy, the global protests over SOPA/PIPA and ACTA and the outrage over Apple’s iOS allowing apps like Path to access the address book without prior approval, these fears have certainly seemed warranted. But we should also remember that Internet users around the world face far more insidious limitations and intrusions on their Internet usage -- practices, in fact, that would horrify the average American.
Sadly, most of the rest of the world has come to accept censorship as a necessary evil. Although I recently argued that Twitter’s censorship policy at least had the benefit of transparency, it’s still an unfortunate cost of doing global business for a company born and bred with the freedoms of the United States, and founded by tech pioneers whose opportunities and creativity stem directly from our Constitution. Yet by the standards of dictatorial regimes, Internet users in countries like China, Syria and Iran should consider themselves lucky if Twitter’s relatively modest censorship program actually keeps those countries’ governments from shutting down the service. As we are seeing around the world, chances are, unfortunately, it won’t.
from The Great Debate:
On Feb. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case is about Shell’s alleged complicity in torture and extrajudicial killings committed by the Nigerian military in the mid-1990s, and is expected to determine whether corporations can be sued in the U.S. for their involvement in human rights abuses abroad.
Corporate lawyers and plaintiffs’ attorneys alike are eagerly awaiting the outcome. If the Supreme Court upholds corporate liability, as federal courts have in the past and the Obama administration is encouraging the High Court to do, other lawsuits will surely follow -- against Apple for labor abuses in its Chinese manufacturing base, for example.
Céad míle fáilte for the new Chinese leader
China’s vice President could have chosen state banquets in Berlin or Paris for his recent trip to Europe. This wasn’t just any visit – it was the introduction of Xi Jinping, the man tipped to become the next Chinese leader, to the world. But instead of either of those venues he chose to tour Croke Park in Dublin indulging in a spot of Gaelic games on the way. After heading to the US, en route to Turkey, Jinping went to Ireland.
The official Chinese itinerary is extremely telling. Beijing chose one of the smallest nations in the currency bloc for Jinping’s visit and this will be followed with a trip by Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to China scheduled for next month.