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Channel Title: Economic Issues
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Charlemagne: Emmanuel Macron is revitalising the European Union—and dividing it
Print section Print Rubric:  Emmanuel Macron is both revitalising the European Union, and dividing it Print Headline:  Sea change Print Fly Title:  Charlemagne UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain faces up to Brexit Fly Title:  Charlemagne Main image:  20170722_EUD000_0.jpg LIFE comes at you fast in the European Union. Barely a year ago, with the wounds from the refugee crisis still gaping, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, could be heard warning that a British vote to quit the EU threatened to bring about the collapse of western civilisation. In half the countries on the continent, snarling populists eager for European disintegration were terrifying the pro-EU establishment. Yet over the past few months, gloom has turned to sunshine. In June Mr Tusk declared that he had never felt so optimistic about the EU. Much of the credit ...
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Britain and the European Union: The six flavours of Brexit
Print section Print Rubric:  The EU offers many menus, from Norwegian to Turkish. But Britain cannot expect to choose Ă  la carte Print Headline:  The six flavours of Brexit Print Fly Title:  Britain and the European Union UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain faces up to Brexit Fly Title:  Britain and the European Union Main image:  20170722_BRD001_0.jpg JUST over a year has passed since Britain voted to leave the European Union and Theresa May subsequently became prime minister. Nearly four months have elapsed since Mrs May invoked Article 50 of the EU treaty, setting a two-year deadline for Brexit that will expire on March 30th 2019. The clock is ticking. And at first blush there has been much activity: a big speech by Mrs May at Lancaster House in January; several government white papers; bills introduced in Parliament; and the start of formal ...
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The other handover: An illustrious Hong Kong container firm sells to China
Print section Print Rubric:  An illustrious Hong Kong company sells to a mainland rival Print Headline:  The other handover Print Fly Title:  Container shipping UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China Fly Title:  The other handover Location:  HONG KONG Main image:  Terminal value Terminal value STONECUTTERS ISLAND in Hong Kong used to be a favoured habitat for poisonous snakes and eye-catching birds such as the white-bellied sea eagle. Thanks to Hong Kong’s rapid development, it is no longer so hospitable. Its sky is full of gantry cranes, stacking 20-foot-long shipping containers in multicoloured tessellations, like giant Lego bricks. A cluster of decorative containers, daubed in graffiti, line the perimeter of container terminal eight, which is ...
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Buttonwood: How to kill a corporate zombie
Print section Print Rubric:  The answer may hold the key to enhancing productivity Print Headline:  How to kill a corporate zombie Print Fly Title:  Buttonwood UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China Fly Title:  Buttonwood Main image:  20170715_fnp501.jpg WHAT is the best way to kill a zombie? Fans of Daryl Dixon, a character in “The Walking Dead”, a television series, will know the answer: a crossbow bolt to the brain. Getting rid of corporate zombies, however, is a much more complicated process. Ageing populations mean that the workforces in developed economies are likely to stagnate, or even shrink, in coming decades. That means almost all the burden of economic growth is likely to fall on productivity improvements. There has been a lot of focus on labour-market flexibility as the key to solving this problem, ...
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Down the aisle: Who would buy Air India?
Print section Print Rubric:  Wanted: a new pilot for a struggling national emblem Print Headline:  Down the aisle Print Fly Title:  Air India UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Germany’s current-account surplus is bad for the world economy Fly Title:  Down the aisle Location:  MUMBAI Main image:  20170708_wbp503.jpg A FAMOUS brand in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, sitting on valuable slots at international airports and able to borrow cheaply thanks to being state-owned: Air India ought to be hugely profitable. But under state ownership it has guzzled public funds as hungrily as its jets consume kerosene. Last week the authorities threw in the towelette and announced an “in principle” cabinet agreement to privatise it. The chances of that going ahead rose on June 30th ...
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The Economist explains: What is the OECD?
Main image:  MANY articles in The Economist cite reports or statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD. Often we add the description, “a club of rich countries” (something it isn’t that happy about). What is this club, and what does it actually do?The OECD was founded in 1961 but grew out of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation which was set up in 1948 to operate the Marshall plan, the American aid programme for war-ravaged Europe. The OECD included non-European countries; the idea behind its formation was to encourage economic interdependence among member nations with the help of evidence-based analysis. Its members fund its work. Countries have to apply to join and must meet minimum legal and other standards; they benefit from the group’s research and from the prestige of being an OECD member. There are now 35 members, with Latvia the latest to sign up, in 2016. The OECD has produced standards on bribery, consumer protection and the responsible sourcing of minerals, among many others. (These are purely voluntary.)The club of mostly rich countries is probably best known for three things. The first is its regular economic reports, both on the global outlook and on individual countries; its policy criticisms can generate headlines. The ...
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Never say never: Pakistan’s old economic vulnerabilities persist
Print section Print Rubric:  Old economic vulnerabilities persist; new ones emerge Print Headline:  Never say never Print Fly Title:  Pakistan and the IMF UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Trump’s Washington is paralysed Fly Title:  Never say never Location:  ISLAMABAD THE IMF, claims Pakistan’s government, is surplus to requirements. Ministers in its business-minded ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), boast of a record that means the country can pay its own bills. “We will not go back to the IMF programme,” declared Ishaq Dar, the finance minister, in May, almost a year after the completion of Pakistan’s most recent, $6.6bn bail-out. In a country that mistrusts Western assistance and where protesters portray the IMF as a bloodthirsty crocodile, such words have a heady appeal. But they ring hollow. On June 16th the IMF warned of ...
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Double standards?: Developing countries rebel against the credit-rating agencies
Print section Print Rubric:  Some leading emerging markets threaten to rebel against the ratings agencies Print Headline:  Double standards? Print Fly Title:  Sovereign-bond ratings UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Trump’s Washington is paralysed Fly Title:  Double standards? Main image:  20170701_FND001_0.jpg EARLIER this year, a crowd of patriotic Indian students bristled when Arvind Subramanian, the government’s chief economic adviser, showed them a slide with two charts. One showed India’s steady economic growth and flat debt-GDP ratio; the other China’s slowing growth and fast-rising debt. Yet India’s credit rating from S&P Global Ratings (formerly Standard and Poor’s), has been stuck at BBB-. China, on the other hand, was upgraded from A+ to AA- in 2010 even as its debt shot up. The slide was pithily titled “Poor Standards”. Rating government ...
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Free exchange: What Asia learned from its financial crisis 20 years ago
Print section Print Rubric:  Did Asia learn the lessons of its financial crisis? Print Headline:  Hot and sour Print Fly Title:  Free exchange UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Trump’s Washington is paralysed Fly Title:  Free exchange MUSEUM SIAM in Bangkok is dedicated to exploring all things Thai. Until July 2nd, that includes an exhibition on the Asian financial crisis, which began on that date 20 years ago, when the Thai baht lost its peg with the dollar. The exhibition features two seesaws, showing how many baht were required to balance one dollar, both before the crisis (25) and after (over 50 at one point). Visitors can also read the testimony of some of the victims, including a high-flying stockbroker who was reduced to selling sandwiches, and a businesswoman whose boss told her to “take care of the work for me” before hanging himself. (In Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, 10,400 people killed themselves as a result ...
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Buttonwood: Alarm grows about over-exuberance in corporate lending
Print section Print Rubric:  Borrowers have the whip hand in the credit markets Print Headline:  Easy money Print Fly Title:  Buttonwood UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Trump’s Washington is paralysed Fly Title:  Buttonwood WHEN the financial crisis was at its height in 2008, being a debtor was a dreadful experience. Banks and companies scrambled desperately to get the financing they needed. But the balance of power in the financial markets can easily shift. In 2005 and 2006, credit had been easy to get on generous terms. Not only were loans cheap and plentiful; they also suffered from fewer restrictions. Until then, corporate loans had many covenants offering safeguards for lenders if the debtor’s financial position were to deteriorate. But 2005-06 saw the emergence of “covenant-lite” loans in which such restrictions were virtually non-existent. The cycle has turned again. Analysis by Moody’s, a ratings agency, shows ...
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Aid for trade: America’s programme to help trade’s losers needs fixing
Print section Print Rubric:  America’s programme to help trade’s losers could do with a fix Print Headline:  Aid for trade Print Fly Title:  Trade-adjustment policies UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Trump’s Washington is paralysed Fly Title:  Aid for trade Location:  EVANSVILLE, INDIANA Main image:  Alas, poor Warrick Alas, poor Warrick BRIAN AUNSPACH thought he had a job for life. After six years at a smelter owned by Alcoa, America’s largest aluminium company, his work was hard but the benefits decent. Warning signs came with crashing aluminium prices in the summer of 2015 and murmurings about unfair Chinese competition. Then reality hit: in January 2016 Alcoa announced the smelter’s closure. Around 600 people lost their jobs. The events of 2016, from Brexit to Donald Trump’s ...
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Fading faith in good works: Aid brought Liberia back from the brink
Print section Print Rubric:  Aid brought Liberia back from the brink. It also weakened its fledgling government Print Headline:  Fading faith in good works Print Fly Title:  Foreign aid UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Trump’s Washington is paralysed Fly Title:  Fading faith in good works Location:  FREETOWN AND MONROVIA Main image:  20170701_IRP001_0.jpg DRIVING through the Liberian countryside, on a rare paved highway, two kinds of roadside sign catch the eye. One advertises local Protestant churches. The other sort advertises the splendid work done by aid agencies. USAID, the European Union, Japan’s development agency and others take credit for this youth programme or that forest rehabilitation scheme. An unscientific survey suggests that the Americans are winning the battle of the ...
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Financial assets, made in China: China enters the big leagues of global markets
Print section Print Rubric:  Index inclusions will force investors to buy Chinese stocks and bonds Print Headline:  Financial assets, made in China Print Fly Title:  Global markets UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  India’s prime minister is not as much of a reformer as he seems Fly Title:  Financial assets, made in China Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20170624_FND001_0.jpg FROM shoes to shirts and phones to fridges, made-in-China goods have blanketed the globe over the past three decades, entering every country and just about every home. But one kind of Chinese good few abroad dare touch: its financial assets. Outsiders own less than 2% of its shares and bonds, far below the levels of foreign ownership seen in other markets. Capital barriers and financial risks have put investors off. ...
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When the gloves come off: British business prepares for a bare-knuckle fight with the government
Print section Print Rubric:  Business squares up for a bare-knuckle fight against too hard a Brexit Print Headline:  When the gloves come off Print Fly Title:  The government and business UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  India’s prime minister is not as much of a reformer as he seems Fly Title:  When the gloves come off Main image:  20170624_BRD001_0.jpg IT HAS been a dispiriting year for many British businesspeople. Most voted to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum. They accepted defeat, but then looked on in horror as Theresa May, the new prime minister, veered towards an extreme form of hard Brexit, promising to leave the single market and customs union and to impose harsh migration restrictions. This has been accompanied by a ceaseless flow of vitriol from politicians on all sides, triggered in part by the controversial bankruptcy of BHS, a ...
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Free exchange: The Federal Reserve risks truncating a recovery with room to run
Print section Print Rubric:  Janet Yellen’s productivity scepticism could prove self-fulfilling Print Headline:  Diminished expectations Print Fly Title:  Free exchange UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  India’s prime minister is not as much of a reformer as he seems Fly Title:  Free exchange WHEN it comes to inflation, the Federal Reserve sometimes resembles a child freshly emerged from an age-inappropriate horror film. To its members, runaway price increases seem to lurk in every oddly shaped shadow. On June 14th America’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate for the third time in six months, even as inflation lingered below its 2% target, as it has for most of the past five years. Some critics reckon the Fed’s 2% inflation target is too constraining. Indeed, in recent comments on a letter from prominent economists calling for a higher target, Janet Yellen, the chairman, signalled openness to the idea. But the ...
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The art of the deal: The promise and pitfalls of privatising public assets
Print section Print Rubric:  The promise and pitfalls of privatising public assets Print Headline:  The art of the deal Print Fly Title:  Privatisation UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  India’s prime minister is not as much of a reformer as he seems Fly Title:  The art of the deal Location:  WASHINGTON, DC Main image:  20170624_USP002_0.jpg DONALD TRUMP ran for office promising to spur the private sector to rebuild America’s roads, bridges and airports. But it seems that Republicans want to start their modernisation in the sky. On June 21st House Republicans unveiled a bill that would privatise air-traffic control, a policy the president announced earlier this month. If the administration is to be believed, this is just one of many privatisations that could increase efficiency and ...
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Free exchange: The perils of nationalisation
Print section Print Rubric:  Expanded state ownership is a risky solution to economic ills Print Headline:  National treasure Print Fly Title:  Free exchange UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  A landslide legislative victory would make France’s president a potent force Fly Title:  Free exchange WHEN Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his Labour manifesto ahead of the recent British election, opponents gawked at pledges to renationalise the postal and rail systems. Such enthusiasm for state ownership smacks of a philosophy long since abandoned by leaders on both left and right. Despite Labour’s decent electoral performance, nationalisation is not everywhere on the march; on June 5th Donald Trump made public his desire to privatise air-traffic control. But the rise of Mr Corbyn and Bernie Sanders hints at a weakening of the rich-world consensus that the less of the economy owned by government, the better. That is a pity. Expanded ...
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The age of Merkron: Restarting the Franco-German engine
Print section Print Rubric:  Emmanuel Macron’s triumph restarts the Franco-German engine Print Headline:  The age of Merkron Print Fly Title:  Paris-Berlin relations UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  A landslide legislative victory would make France’s president a potent force Fly Title:  The age of Merkron Location:  BERLIN Main image:  Macron and Merkel find a little magic Macron and Merkel find a little magic FOR Germany, Emmanuel Macron was the dream candidate. Where his far-left and far-right rivals for the presidency bashed Berlin, he defended it. During his two campaign visits he was, to quote one German official, “pitch perfect” on his country’s problems. Several of Mr Macron’s inner circle are German-speakers with close links to Berlin. Withered Franco-German ties are already ...
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Buttonwood: Getting the most out of business taxes
Print section Print Rubric:  Does it matter how nations pluck the corporate goose? Print Headline:  The business of tax Print Fly Title:  Buttonwood UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  A landslide legislative victory would make France’s president a potent force Fly Title:  Buttonwood ONE of the hottest debates in economic policy at the moment is how to ensure companies are paying the optimal amount of tax. On the right, politicians think that a lower corporate-tax rate will lead to more business investment and thus faster economic growth. Hence the initial stockmarket enthusiasm after President Donald Trump was elected on a platform that included cuts in business taxes. On the left, the belief is that business is not paying its “fair share” of tax and that it can be further squeezed to pay for spending commitments. Hence the promise of the Labour Party in Britain’s recent election campaign to push the corporate-tax rate ...
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The 1914 effect: The globalisation counter-reaction
Main image:  WHEN the Archduke Franz Ferdinand (pictured right) was assassinated in 1914, there were few initial indications that world war would follow. In retrospect, many people have argued that the killing was a freak event that should not have resulted in the folly of war.But was the subsequent war really an exogenous event? Or was it the near-inevitable consequence of the tensions resulting from the first great era of globalisation? If Franz Ferdinand had survived, maybe something else would have triggered the conflict. If the latter possibility is right, that may be a warning sign for the current era.From 1870 to 1914, the first great era of globalisation saw rapid economic growth, trade that grew faster than GDP, mass migration from Europe to the New World and convergence of real wages between the old and new worlds. In Europe, GDP per capita grew more than 70%; in the new world, (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United States) it doubled. Trade grew from 5.9% of global GDP to 8.2%. In many European countries growth was much higher; nearly 15% in the UK and 18% in Belgium. This occurred despite the restoration of tariffs in many countries in the 1880s onwards. Transport costs were falling fast thanks to the railway and the steamship which meant that prices for goods like wheat, ...
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