The Great Debate UK

Sri Lanka’s death zone

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Donald Steinberg is Deputy President of the International Crisis Group, www.crisisgroup.org– Donald Steinberg is Deputy President of the International Crisis Group,¬†www.crisisgroup.org. The views expressed are his own. –

Civilians are dying by the hundreds and possibly thousands in the northeast of Sri Lanka. As government troops converge on the remaining forces of the rebel LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in a tiny strip of coastal land, tens of thousands of civilians remained trapped in the crossfire — getting killed and maimed in large numbers both by indiscriminate army shelling and by the rebels preventing them from fleeing, with equally lethal force.

Many thousands have managed to escape the free-fire zone in recent days, all with horrific tales to tell of those they left behind. Just how many civilians remain in the killing zone is not entirely clear. The government is saying that as many as 170,000 are now in government territory, with more than 100,000 people fleeing the zone since Monday.

Last month, however, they were claiming there were only 38,000 remaining to be liberated from LTTE control. Their current figure of 15,000 to 20,000 remaining with the LTTE should therefore be treated with great caution.

from The Great Debate:

Look to deal numbers for M&A green shoots

Alex Smith-GreatDebate

-- Alexander Smith is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Volumes may be down, but there are green shoots appearing in the M&A market after the frozen winter of financial distress.

from The Great Debate:

An emerging opportunity in U.S. housing

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Deep breath. Ok, here goes: For the first time in a very long time U.S. housing might actually be a reasonable buy on a five-year view.

As a long-time housing bear and someone who believes there is still considerable pain to come in the U.S. economy and banking system that is quite a hard thing to say.

from The Great Debate:

Is there any point to the IMF?

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Institutions often outlive their usefulness. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has often looked like an organization in search of a mission. Lately, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also seemed like one lost without a contemporary role.

The IMF is trying to reinvent itself as a global financial regulator or as a forum in which member states can hold mutual discussions about their banking, monetary and fiscal policies -- a sort of World Trade Organisation (WTO) for finance.

from The Great Debate:

U.K. government should resist the VC trap

Margaret DoyleThe British government is considering whether to set up a mega public-private fund to invest in early-stage ventures. This would be a mistake. While British -- and European -- entrepreneurs have largely failed to produce huge successes like Google and eBay, bunging taxpayers' money at the problem is not the answer.

In a policy document published on April 20, the government said it is evaluating whether to set up a public-private fund with similar objectives to the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation, the precursor to 3i. That was established with 10 million pounds in 1945 as Britain struggled to recover from war. Such a move has been urged on Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA). NESTA is looking for a 1 billion pounds fund; BVCA for 1 billion pounds-plus and the CBI for a round 1.5 billion pounds. The idea is for the government would lead the fund-raising by putting up an unspecified portion of the total pot.

from The Great Debate:

U.S. environmental agency walks a tightrope on CO2

John Kemp Great DebateThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s proposed findings on greenhouse gas emissions were a carefully worded attempt to appease climate-change activists while containing hostility from business and energy organizations or Congress.

The "endangerment" and "contribute" findings, that greenhouse gases posed a danger to human health, were designed to provide clear signs of progress on a signature issue for the administration while preserving maximum flexibility.

from The Great Debate:

Beware Goldman’s “dutiful” TARP repayment

(Republished to clarify time period of data in fifth paragraph)

Trading specialists work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange trading shares of Goldman Sachs, in New York, April 14, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East Patriotism, as Dr Johnson once observed, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. So when you hear words like "duty" drip from the lips of a senior executive at Goldman Sachs, you instinctively count the spoons.

You'd be right to do so too. Chief financial officer David Viniar's observation that Goldman has a duty to repay the money it received last autumn from the U.S. government as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program may be marginally less cynical than the apercu flung out recently by his boss, Lloyd Blankfein, that investment bankers should be paid less and shouldn't be rewarded for failure.

from The Great Debate:

Obama mulls cap-and-trade by decree

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Senior U.S. administration officials have indicated that if Congress does not pass comprehensive legislation providing for a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions they will press ahead unilaterally with proposals using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s existing authority under the Clean Air Act.

This is an attempt to gain political leverage after deep divisions within the Democratic Party appeared when 26 Democratic senators rebelled earlier this month and voted for an amendment to the budget resolution barring cap-and-trade being considered as part of the budget.

from The Great Debate:

Goldman may repay government funds but not ease U.S. grip

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Goldman Sachs Group Inc may succeed in its bid to pay back U.S. taxpayer money with the help of a $5 billion common share sale, but it may still not get the freedom it wants from intense public scrutiny.

Goldman, which posted a better-than-expected first-quarter profit and announced the public offering on Monday, has navigated the global financial crisis better than many of its rivals.

Quantitative easing a last resort

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img_3391-alan-clarke-Alan Clarke is UK economist at BNP Paribas. The opinions expressed are his own-

As expected, the Bank of England left the Bank Rate unchanged at 0.5 percent at the April meeting, the first unchanged decision since September 2008.

The accompanying statement was short and sweet. The Bank has accumulated 26 billion pounds of asset purchases and will take a further two months to complete the planned 75 billion pounds of purchases – see you next month!

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