The Great Debate UK

from UK News:

Is everything “just too damn complicated?”

Photo

The trouble with banking, a private equity chief told a hearing of MPs this week, is that it has just become "too damn complicated" and needs to get back to basics.Many readers might agree with those refreshingly candid words -- and they might think too that it's not just banking that has become tangled up in glue."It used to be so easy -- now it takes for ever," we sigh in unison.Maybe the Internet is partly to blame. It was supposed to simplify things but, for many, it has made whole areas of life vastly more frustrating. "Simply click" may be meant as a breezy invitation to a stress-free transaction -- but in reality it is often the gateway to Hell.Need help? -- simply phone our 24/7 advisers in Asia. (But let's not go there...)Could the apparent growth of office bureaucracy also be playing its part? Commentators have frequently bewailed the growing tide of fussy, box-ticking procedure and the swelling ranks of email-happy bureaucrats with grand-sounding titles. Got any of those?Do you find any particular areas of home or office life more complicated than they used to be?If so, simply click on that "post comment" link down there. Easy eh?

from The Great Debate:

Pension assumptions hitting the wall

Photo

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

That 8 percent annual return on investment you and your pension fund manager were banking on is now looking almost as optimistic as Madoff's magic 12 percent, as deleveraging and deflation bite.

With extremely low or negative interest rates and everyone from consumers to banks trying to shed debt and assets at the same time, what seemed like reasonable projections for a mixed portfolio of stocks, bonds and other assets are now substantially too high.

from The Great Debate:

Global imbalances and the Triffin dilemma

Photo

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

For the world monetary system, the financial crisis which erupted in the summer of 2007 is a cataclysmic shift that will prove every bit as significant as the outbreak of the First World War (which heralded sterling's demise as a reserve currency) and the suspension of gold convertibility in 1971 (which marked the end of bullion's monetary role).

The crisis marks the passing of an era in which the U.S. dollar has been the world's undisputed reserve currency for making international payments and storing wealth.

from Africa News blog:

Selling Africa by the pound

Photo

The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.

A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar - although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.

from The Great Debate:

Ukraine gas crisis spurs EU energy policy

Photo

Paul Taylor Great Debate-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that has left hundreds of thousands of Europeans shivering in the winter cold is bound to accelerate plodding European Union efforts to build a common energy policy.

The cut-off of Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine highlighted how little progress the 27-nation EU has made in connecting national energy networks and diversifying supplies since the first such crisis three years ago.

from UK News:

Decision time at Heathrow

Photo

The government has approved the third Heathrow runway, in the interests of jobs and British competitiveness.

The third runway -- something airport operator BAA pledged it would not seek if it was granted permission to build Terminal 5 -- will open up a sharp political divide, with several Labour MPs, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats opposed to the idea.

from The Great Debate:

Downturn hits China’s manufacturing heartland

Photo

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

The global slowdown is hitting China's modern manufacturing base in Guangdong province especially hard. Deputy governor Huang Longyun on Thursday warned a news conference "the situation is grim" and the manufacturing hub around Pearl River Delta is bearing the brunt of China's slowdown.

Guangdong's burgeoning factories have supplied most of the cheap manufactured items flooding world markets in the last five years. They have also been the source of most of the marginal demand for crude oil, refined products and other raw materials. The province's slowdown will therefore have profound effects on global markets and prices in 2009.

from The Great Debate:

Do tough times draw TV-viewers to Web?

Photo

-- Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

In the first global recession of the Internet Age, budget-conscious consumers are showing they no longer have an endless appetite for every new gadget or media service.

Many users are looking to eliminate overlapping services that offer more of the same old formula entertainment in a different package or on another device.

from The Great Debate:

Of boom, bust but maybe not the Black Death

Photo

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

As the crisis has deepened we've had to search farther back in history for precedents, and with deflation at hand much of the debate now centers on how similar the next while will be to the Great Depression.

But what if, rather than the 1930s, we ought to be thinking about the revolutionary crisis of the 18th century, or even further back to the 14th century lending and spending spree that ended with the Black Death?

from Photographers' Blog:

Finbarr from the field

Photo

On Jan. 14 Reuters hosted a live video Q&A with our renowned photographer Finbarr O’Reilly about his experiences in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Finbarr addressed what drew him to Africa and the most difficult aspects of being a photographer in a war zone.

Finbarr is still available to answer questions, submit them in the comments section below or send a Twitter message with the hash tag "#finbarr" .

  •