In addition to the economic meltdown, there is another political story in Europe at present – Belgium.
I’m not referring to the recent release of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Adventures of Tintin’ movie – though it might be argued that Captain Haddock bears a passing resemblance to several much-missed British political figures, thanks to the trademark slur.
By Mark Kobayashi-Hillary. The author is the chief executive of technology research group, IT Decisions, based in São Paulo, Brazil. The opinions expressed are his own.
Labour leader Ed Miliband used a column in last weekend’s Observer newspaper to suggest that it is time for politicians to listen to the protestors at the Occupy London protest camp next to St Paul’s Cathedral.
In 1998, the Japanese government was ridiculed for giving away almost $6bn (at 1998 value) of shopping vouchers. The plan was that consumers would spend more of this ‘free money’ and help lift Japan out of the seemingly endless malaise it suffered in the nineties – as many other developed economies were enjoying a roaring decade.
One of the major faults in the Japanese plan was that the vouchers could easily replace the need to spend actual money. If my groceries cost me $100 then why would I still spend $100 of cash on groceries and buy a nice meal in a restaurant with my voucher, when I could just use the voucher for those groceries?
Once again German Chancellor Angela Merkel has had to dig deep to ensure that the euro zone can limp along for a little longer without any single nation defaulting.
And this story changes day by day. No sooner has Germany rescued the euro, Greece apologises and says they can’t meet the deficit targets – no more savings can possibly be achieved through austerity.
The Dale Farm barricades are being dismantled and all political eyes are now focused on the party conference season. Just yesterday, Nick Clegg managed to impress the Lib Dem faithful in Birmingham, though convincing the voters that all is well with the good ship Lib Dem might be a bigger challenge for the Deputy PM.
But as the dust settles on Dale Farm, have we learned anything from the fiasco where Basildon Council attempted to evict 52 families from their homes, with no option of staying in the area due to there being no other local authorised sites for travellers?
Today we are all used to an international trade in services. When you call up the bank, a contact centre agent in India probably answers the call. When you crash your car and file a claim, the claim form you painstakingly complete is scanned and sent thousands of kilometres away for processing. When you call to find out the next train to Cardiff, it’s not someone in Wales giving you the information you need.
This change in how services are delivered has become a part of everyday life. For many companies – such as banks – it went too far in the past decade. Many banks found that their customers were uncomfortable dealing with an agent in a far-flung location and it soon became a source of competitive advantage to answer calls locally. But those same banks advertising that ‘we answer your calls in the UK’ are all sending their IT systems offshore. The ‘offshoring’ continues, it is just less visible.
- Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is the author of several books, including ‘Who Moved my Job?’ and ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’. The opinions expressed are his own. –
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is on a mission to shore up support within his own party for the tripling of university tuition fees. The Liberal Democrats campaigned with a manifesto pledge claiming they would axe fees if they ever got into power. They got the power, but only via a coalition with the Conservative party, and though they claim that some Lib Dem pledges survived the coalition talks, the policy on tuition fees actually went the other way.
In the end, the ‘leaks’ worked. The various snatched photographs of briefing documents leaked in the past couple of days meant that the real story of the Spending Review was the absence of any shocks. The government managed our expectations, so political new junkies and the money markets were not really surprised as Chancellor George Osborne outlined the cuts today.
Some benefits, such as the winter fuel payment and free entry to galleries and museums, had been considered low hanging fruit, almost certain to go, but the Chancellor surprised the gallery by throwing out a few spending commitment trinkets as he wielded the axe elsewhere.
Most of the media and commentator attention today will rightly be on the public sector. When the Chancellor announces the cuts we all expect, the axe is going to fall on public services and the only real question is where and how hard it falls.
But spare a thought for the private sector too. These cuts will have an enormous effect on private companies that work for the government, and those companies employ many thousands of people too.
- Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is the author of several books, including ‘Who Moved my Job?’ and ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Prime Minister David Cameron has loaded a 747 full of British business leaders and government ministers, all on a charm offensive aimed at securing deeper trade ties between the two nations. But what is he offering the Indians?