The Great Debate UK

from Africa News blog:

Is Africa drought a chance to enact new UK policy?

New ways of managing aid are being debated in Britain as global concerns mount over a hunger crisis devastating the drought-affected Horn of Africa.

Randolph Kent, director of the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King's College in London, says the crisis provides a perfect opportunity for the British government to test its recent promise to reform how it responds to humanitarian emergencies.

The severe drought, caused by the driest weather since 1995 in East Africa, has affected an estimated 10 million people and is expected to continue to worsen into early 2012, according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

While Kent acknowledges the importance of a $145 million (90.2 million pound) injection of humanitarian aid from the British government, he says the money will not help prevent the next Horn of Africa drought and that the government needs to become more "anticipatory".

What can the U.S. learn from the Spending Review?

Watching George Osborne present the results of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review last week, two thoughts went through my mind.

On a personal level, how could I have been so wrong about Cameron and Osborne? A pre-election blog of mine was titled “A Pair of Lightweights”. Both have already done enough to assure even the most cynical observer (which probably doesn’t mean me) that they are every bit as serious as the job they face.

from Breakingviews:

Britain’s unkind cuts may help growth sprout

It was billed as a bloodbath, and it is. By slashing public spending by 81 billion pounds over five years, Britain's coalition government is reversing the big increases of previous years. The plan is billed as necessary pain to secure the country's financial future, but it is also ideological. The aim is to move from unaffordable levels of public employment and welfare to private employment and a balanced budget. The danger, however, is that the economy stalls.

The cuts to the civil service are drastic and will cause distress, even though most departments' budgets over the life of the parliament have been reduced by a fifth, not the threatened quarter. The BBC, the foreign office, the police, even the royal family: none have been spared. The government wants services to be delivered more cheaply -- which means by fewer people.

from Reuters Investigates:

Morbid money-spinners

If the life settlements market seems ghoulish, here’s a British scandal which isn’t doing the image of the business any favours. It’s one of the worst the country’s seen.

Around 30,000 mainly elderly investors in the UK put their money into a company called Keydata, hoping to make a little extra cash to fund their own retirement with the promise of a healthy return.

from Breakingviews:

Barclays’ Diamond choice spices up strategy debate

Bob Diamond's promotion to chief executive of Barclays is no surprise. The driving force behind the UK bank's investment banking arm was a candidate for the top job back in 2004, and Barclays Capital's rise since then -- it contributed over 80 percent of the group's pre-tax profit in the first half of 2010 -- made him a shoo-in.

The question is what the decision means for Barclays' future structure. The UK banking commission, which reports next year, is examining whether to demand that lenders separate their retail and wholesale arms. Barclays' leaders have to consider every possible scenario.

from Breakingviews:

UK governance code fails at BP and Prudential

(Republished on Oct. 19 with the following disclaimer: Neil Collins owned shares in BP when he wrote this article; he bought shares shortly before and after)

BP  and Prudential are two of Britain's biggest and most respected companies. Their lavish annual reports contain dozens of pages on how these great corporations are run. Both boast of their compliance with the code of corporate governance, which encourages proper boardroom debate to avoid bad decisions, boosts the chairman, and insists that he cannot also be the chief executive, lest one person become too powerful.

from UK News:

Are you losing faith in climate science?

climatechangeWhile attending a meeting of prominent climate sceptics during the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December (an anti-COP15, if you will), I listened to each of the speakers put forward their theory on why conventional evidence on the primary causes of climate change should be dismissed as, for lack of a better phrase, complete hokum.

Among their denunciations of widely-accepted truths regarding global warming, greenhouse gases, melting glaciers and rising sea levels was the assertion that a change in attitude was afoot; the public may have been duped into believing the mainstream scientific assessment of climate change, but not for long.

Politicians need to get a grip on what matters

Photo

Ali Steed-Alison Steed is editor and co-founder of the personal finance website for women MyMoneyDiva.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The battle lines are already being drawn in this election year. Although none of us knows for sure when the election will be, there are signs that “May” is going to be a significant month.

SUDS a partial solution to flooding in Britain

Photo

BRITAIN/-Susanne Charlesworth is a member of SUDS – Sustainable Drainage Applied Research Group, Coventry University. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The scenes of flooding in Cumbria are a shocking illustration of how Britain’s ageing drainage infrastructure is failing.

Considering defined contribution pension pros and cons

Photo

damian-stancombe1-Damian Stancombe is head of Corporate Defined Contribution Pensions at Punter Southall Group. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Three things to keep in mind for defined contribution pensions:

Higher earners

Pension plans help build financial security in retirement, and in the face of a looming pensioner crisis the government continues its efforts to increase the number of savers. There is one exception: if you earn more than 150,000 pounds all bets are off.

  •