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Channel Title: Economic Issues
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The Franco-German relationship: What France’s election means for Germany
Main image:  Emmanuel Macron outside the chancellery in Berlin IN MAY 2012 a freshly elected François Hollande took off for Germany on his first foreign visit as president, determined to forge a close alliance with Angela Merkel. His plane was hit by lightning and had to turn back to Paris. Maybe it was an omen. Mr Hollande never achieved the reboot he had sought; a function of crises in both countries, poor chemistry between the two leaders and the growing gap between struggling France and the booming economy across the Rhine.Paris sees Berlin as patronising and uncollegiate. Berlin sees Paris as dysfunctional and unreliable. The two have been through shocks—the refugee crisis in Germany and the terror attacks in France—that prompted “no strong bond of cooperation between the two countries, despite the potential to set an example to the rest of the EU”, write Josef Janning and Manuel Lafont Rapnouil of the European Council on Foreign Relations.Yet the two are irredeemably interdependent. Berlin needs Paris to help keep the euro zone together, deal with the root causes of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa (Mrs Merkel is increasingly taking an interest in the latter) and make Europe more self-sufficient in defence. There is even talk of Germany “buying into” France’s nuclear deterrent if ...
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Taking stock: To understand Britain today, look to the 17th century
Main image:  DAMN her eyes! I took over as Bagehot only the other day, on April Fools’ Day, having not focused on British politics since 1993. I was gently easing myself into my new job—getting my parliamentary pass, having lunch with MPs who happened to have been at Oxford with me, planning a trip out to the mysterious North. And now I have an election to cover!Theresa May’s decision to call a general election has been thoroughly chewed over by now. This was obviously a good call. Labour is as weak as it has ever been; Mrs May will be able to stamp her own authority on her party; shifting the next general election from 2020 to 2022 means that she won’t be negotiating with the EU against the sound of a ticking clock. I also sense that this could be a highly significant election. Mrs May is hardly an electrifying politician—she’s a competent grind with an unpleasant willingness to play to the Daily Mail. But she’s operating in electrifying times—and she has an interesting sense that something has gone wrong with globalisation and that we need to reach back into our national traditions, our sense of ourselves as a community, to fix it.This is the first election to be called in the post-globalisation era. British politics since the 1980s has been dominated by liberal globalisation: dismantling the ...
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Daily chart: Competitiveness at school may not yield the best exam results
Main image:  EVERY three years the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, tests hundreds of thousands of high-school pupils across the world on maths, reading and science. Its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has become the leading benchmark for international educational comparisons, and has prompted policymakers to learn lessons from the best-performing school systems. The latest PISA study, conducted in 2015, assessed more than half a million students in 72 countries. For the first time, it also asked respondents in 53 countries broader questions about their social and emotional well-being, addressing their relationships with peers, parents and teachers. The findings, published on April 19th, suggest that students’ family circumstances and psychological well-being matter just as much as schooling does for their eventual performance.One strong conclusion from the study is the importance of students’ desire to succeed, regardless of their natural aptitude. In general, the 25% of pupils describing themselves as the most motivated attain average test scores that correspond to an extra year’s worth of schooling relative to those of the bottom 25%. However, not all forms of motivation are equal.The OECD distinguishes between external motivation, produced by pressure from others, and ...
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Infra dig: How and when to use private money in infrastructure projects
Print section Print Rubric:  How and when to use private capital in infrastructure projects Print Headline:  Private matters Print Fly Title:  Paying for infrastructure UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why an election offers the chance of a better Brexit Fly Title:  Infra dig Main image:  20170422_FNP001_0.jpg WHEN the Indiana Toll Road was opened in 1956, there were eight pairs of travel plazas, or rest stops, along the 156-mile (250km) stretch linking Chicago to Ohio and points eastward. As cars became faster and less thirsty, travellers had less reason to stop regularly for petrol or snacks. Three of the travel plazas closed in the 1970s. Restaurants shuttered, even if offered free rent. The remaining plazas, dwindling in number, fell into disrepair. The abiding memory some road users had of Indiana was of grubby toilets along the toll road. Those ...
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The Economist explains: Why America’s Federal Reserve might make money disappear
Main image:  BEFORE the financial crisis, America’s Federal Reserve held assets worth around $850bn. Today, the central bank’s balance-sheet is more than five times as large, at $4.5trn. It grew during and after the financial crisis as the Fed purchased vast quantities of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities using newly created money, most of it under a policy known as quantitative easing (QE). Now the Fed is preparing to sell some assets, and retire the corresponding money. Why and how will it do this?The Fed resorted to QE to stimulate the economy after it had moved the short-term interest rate, its usual policy instrument, as low as it could go. Debate rages over how, exactly, QE worked; Ben Bernanke, the former Fed chairman, once quipped that the policy “works in practice but not in theory”. But it is clear enough that QE pushed up the price of long-term bonds. This put downward pressure on long-term interest rates (which move inversely to bond prices). Today, however, the Fed, now led by Janet Yellen (pictured), is raising short-term rates, as it tries to keep a lid on inflation. So—the logic goes—it should also shrink its balance-sheet, to push up long-term rates.There are different ways to shrink the balance-sheet. The most aggressive approach would be to sell bonds. This would ...
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Up and down: Trends in the air-freight business
Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Up and down Main image:  20170415_blp910.jpg WHEN people think of air travel they picture planes full of passengers. But air cargo is as vital—perhaps more—to the global economy. Only 1% of exports by volume go in aircraft but because they tend to be the most expensive goods, they account for 35% of global trade by value. Nearly everyone has used products delivered by aircraft, from vaccinations in poor countries to smartphones in rich ones. Cargo airlines such as FedEx Express and Emirates Skycargo have had a difficult few years. Global trade growth has stalled, and along with it demand for air freight. Inanimate air cargo mostly rides in the same planes as the live sort; when rising passenger demand encouraged airlines to buy more planes, the additional cargo capacity flooded the industry, causing air-freight prices to slide. Industry revenues have fallen from a peak of $67bn in 2011 to $50bn now, according to IATA, a trade group. Yet the mood at the World Air Cargo Symposium in March in Abu Dhabi was cautiously optimistic. For the first time since the global ...
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Free exchange: Why the Federal Reserve should keep its balance-sheet large
Print section Print Rubric:  Why the Federal Reserve should keep its balance-sheet large Print Headline:  On balance Print Fly Title:  Free exchange UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  As Turkey votes on a new constitution, it is sliding into dictatorship Fly Title:  Free exchange HOW much money should exist? The Federal Reserve must soon confront this deep question. The Fed has signalled that towards the end of 2017 it will probably begin to unwind quantitative easing (QE), the purchase of financial assets using newly created bank reserves. The central bank’s balance-sheet swelled from about $900bn on the eve of the financial crisis to about $4.5trn by 2015 as it bought mortgage-backed securities and government debt (see chart). If and when the Fed shrinks its balance-sheet, it will also retire the new money it created. Economists such as Milton Friedman popularised the study of the quantity of money in the 1960s and ...
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L-EFTA behind: The EFTA countries show how hard Brexit will be for Britain
Print section Print Rubric:  To understand the trade-offs that Brexit Britain must make, look to EFTA Print Headline:  L-EFTA behind Print Fly Title:  The European Free Trade Association UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  As Turkey votes on a new constitution, it is sliding into dictatorship Fly Title:  L-EFTA behind Location:  OSLO AND REYKJAVIK Main image:  20170415_FND002_0.jpg NORWAY offers much to envy. The food is tasty, public services are great and the people are impossibly good-looking. Its trade policy looks equally desirable. Though it trades heavily with the EU, Norway can also strike trade deals all over the world, either operating in concert with the three other members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) or on its own. Members of ...
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A country mile: Rescuing Myanmar’s farmers from the debt trap
Print section Print Rubric:  The struggle to rescue Myanmar’s farmers from poverty and indebtedness Print Headline:  A country mile Print Fly Title:  Rural finance in Myanmar UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  As Turkey votes on a new constitution, it is sliding into dictatorship Fly Title:  A country mile Location:  DALA TOWNSHIP, YANGON Main image:  Living on borrowed rice Living on borrowed rice WHEN Myo Than was a young man, his family had 12 hectares of farmland in Dala, a rural township just across the river from Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. His mother sold most of it after his father died. Mr Myo Than grows rice on what’s left, but water shortages mean he reaps just one harvest each year. He borrows money from the Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank (MADB)—1.5m kyats ($1,100) ...
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Money Talks: Podcast: The remarkable calmness of gold
Main image:  20170411 15:08:56 Comment Expiry Date:  Wed, 2017-04-26
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Jewel in the crown: What China can learn from the Pearl river delta
Print section Print Rubric:  The Pearl river delta is China’s most dynamic, open and innovative region, says Vijay Vaitheeswaran. Can it show the way for the rest of the country? Print Headline:  Jewel in the crown Print Fly Title:  The Pearl river delta UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What the country can learn from the Pearl river delta Fly Title:  Jewel in the crown Main image:  20170408_SRP059_0.jpg LIBERAL ECONOMICS MAY have gone out of fashion, but not before working miracles in some parts of the world. To witness one of them, visit the Luohu immigration-control point on Shenzhen’s border with Hong Kong, where some 80m crossings are made every year. Since Deng Xiaoping designated the mainland Chinese city as a special economic zone in 1980, putting out the welcome mat for foreign investment and encouraging private enterprise, trillions of dollars ...
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Asia makes, China takes: The PRD is exporting jobs but producing more goods for the home market
Print section Print Rubric:  The delta’s factories are doing a U-turn Print Headline:  Asia makes, China takes Print Fly Title:  Diversification UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What the country can learn from the Pearl river delta Fly Title:  Asia makes, China takes Main image:  20170408_src198.png “THE GREAT CONVERGENCE”, a recent book by Richard Baldwin, argues that throughout most of the industrial era the know-how and culture essential for high-end manufacturing remained cloistered in the factories of the rich world. That led to a divergence between the fortunes of the West and the rest. But once the cost of communications started plunging, after 1990, such knowledge flowed more freely. Western multinationals built world-class factories in remote places, unpacking and outsourcing their manufacturing operations and supply chains. China was one great ...
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The dragon head’s dilemma: Hong Kong’s tricky balancing act
Print section Print Rubric:  Hong Kong’s best future is to remain China’s superconnector Print Headline:  The dragon head’s dilemma Print Fly Title:  Hong Kong and the mainland UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What the country can learn from the Pearl river delta Fly Title:  The dragon head’s dilemma Main image:  20170408_SRP055_0.jpg ON THE OBSERVATION deck atop the Diwang building in Shenzhen you can see two large wax figures depicting Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher enjoying cups of tea. The two leaders negotiated the handover of Hong Kong to China, which eventually took place in 1997. At the time, Mrs Thatcher was criticised by some at home for relinquishing the empire’s last great colony to the communists (Prince Charles reportedly described China’s leaders as “appalling old waxworks”). The more obvious worry was that Hong Kong’s rule of law ...
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Shrink wrap: The history of growth should be all about recessions
Print section Print Rubric:  Why the history of economic growth should be all about recessions Print Headline:  Shrink wrap Print Fly Title:  Economic development UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to manage the computer-security threat Fly Title:  Shrink wrap Main image:  20170408_fnp504.jpg “THROUGHOUT history, poverty is the normal condition of man,” wrote Robert Heinlein, a science-fiction writer. Until the 18th century, global GDP per person was stuck between $725 and $1,100, around the same income level as the World Bank’s current poverty line of $1.90 a day. But global income levels per person have since accelerated, from around $1,100 in 1800 to $3,600 in 1950, and over $10,000 today. Economists have long tried to explain this sudden surge in output. Most theories have focused on the factors driving long-term economic growth such as the ...
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The customs crunch: To see how trade may work after Brexit, visit Dover’s docks
Print section Print Rubric:  Smooth trading with Europe will be disrupted unless Britain drastically overhauls its customs operation Print Headline:  The customs crunch Print Fly Title:  Brexit and the borders UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to manage the computer-security threat Fly Title:  The customs crunch Location:  DOVER Main image:  20170408_BRP004_0.jpg TO MOST Britons, the white cliffs of Dover are symbols of independence and defiance, especially against any prospect of invasion from the continent. But the clifftops also afford an excellent view of one of the great success stories of Britain’s more recent integration with Europe: Dover’s eastern docks. This is the centre of Britain’s seamless trade with the European Union. A long line of lorries snakes slowly but ...
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Half a League: The security threat to the global economy
Main image:  THE global economy faces many threats, but security, or geopolitical risk, is perhaps the most profound; it was a world war, after all, that ended the first great era of globalisation in 1914. As pointed out in this blog before, there are some parallels with the pre-1914 era; globalisation seems to provoke a reaction because of the changes it thrusts on to the social and economic order.Security issues are particularly fraught at the moment, with the chemical attack in Syria revealing the ideological divide at the United Nations. But it is not just Syria; the world also seems unable to deal with the excesses of the North Korean dictatorship, with its assassinations and missile launches. This helplessness recalls the 1930s when the League of Nations, the great hope for security co-operation in the aftermath of the first world war, proved ineffectual in the face of Japanese, German and Italian aggression. Sanctions were imposed after Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia, but in a half-hearted and ineffective manner.  The underlying problem was that the dominant military power of the day, the United States, had refused to join the League; Britain and France were too traumatised by the Great War to contemplate military action; and Germany and Japan were determined to upset the existing ...
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The Economist explains: How is famine declared?
Main image:  IN FEBRUARY the United Nations made the first formal declaration of famine since 2011. Parts of South Sudan, the world’s newest country, are now officially in a state of famine. The UN says that some 20m people are also at risk of famine in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), part of USAID, America’s aid agency, 70m people worldwide will need emergency food aid this year; the highest level in decades. The declaration has galvanised aid agencies, which are frantically fundraising to be able to meet multiple crises at once. But what constitutes a famine? In the past, writes Alex de Waal, a veteran researcher of famines, “a rookie aid worker or journalist, a politically partisan advocate—or a team of seasoned nutritionists and humanitarian professionals—could use the word ‘famine’ as they wished.” But these days, it tends to have a technical definition. The United Nations uses the “Integrated Food Security Phase Classification”, or just the IPC scale. This system is based on geographical areas and places them into one of five categories, from minimal (where most people can get enough food without aid, but some are having to, for example, sell their livestock to survive) all the way through to full famine (where, even with what ...
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Parties and pies: Democrats should be more comfortable discussing economic growth
Main image:  STEVE BANNON is right. This week, in a New York Times Magazine piece otherwise dedicated to the President’s dance with Congress, he offered this: I think the Democrats are fundamentally afflicted with the inability to discuss and have an adult conversation about economics and jobs, because they’re too consumed by identity politics. And then the Republicans, it’s all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government—which just doesn’t have any depth to it. They’re not living in the real world.Lose the bit about identity politics, and you have a clear summation of American macroeconomics. Republicans are lost in theory, unburdened by empirical evidence. Democrats don’t seem to have much of a theory at all. And as Republicans dust themselves off and turn to rewriting America’s tax code, Democrats could use a working theory of economic growth. Judging from last year’s campaign, they aren’t ready to commit to one. Should they develop an interest, however, there are several to hand.Grossly simplified, there are two ways politicians talk to voters about economics. Think of a pie. Republicans promise economic growth, to make the pie larger: more pie for everyone. Hence the now ritual prefix "pro-growth", as in the principles of "Pro-growth Tax Reform" from the ...
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Fewer, but still with us: The world has made great progress in eradicating extreme poverty
Print section Print Rubric:  The world has made amazing progress in eradicating extreme poverty. The going will be much harder from now on Print Headline:  Fewer, but still with us Print Fly Title:  The war on poverty UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title:  Fewer, but still with us Main image:  20170401_IRD001_0.jpg TO PEOPLE who believe that the world used to be a better place, and especially to those who argue that globalisation has done more economic harm than good, there is a simple, powerful riposte: chart 1, below. In 1981 some 42% of the world’s population were extremely poor, according to the World Bank. They were not just poorer than a large majority of their compatriots, as many rich countries define poverty among their own citizens today, but absolutely destitute. At best, they had barely enough ...
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Charlemagne: As the world sours on trade, the EU sweetens on it
Print section Print Rubric:  As the world sours on trade, Brussels is sweetening on it—starting with Japan Print Headline:  Pivot towards Tokyo Print Fly Title:  Charlemagne UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title:  Charlemagne Main image:  20170401_EUD000_0.jpg WHAT a difference a few months makes. Barely half a year ago the European Union’s (EU’s) trade policy was a mess. A much-touted trade and investment partnership (TTIP) with the United States was on life support, trashed by NGOs and consumer groups, and disowned by some of the politicians who had asked for it in the first place. A deal with cuddly Canada (CETA) barely survived an encounter with a preening regional parliament in Belgium. Governments were scrapping over how to respond to state-subsidised Chinese steel, and Britain, among the club’s ...
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