25th October, 2011

Crowd-sourcing info-graphics on UK inequality – get involved!

by Sunny at 9:08 pm    

Graphs like this from the New York Times and this from Business Insider have been circulating all over Facebook, along with lots of other charts and info on how bad inequality has gotten in the United States.

I literally cannot log info Facebook without being hit with another graph that backs up the arguments made by the Occupy Wall Street movement. But 99% of these graphs relate to the United States. There is a dearth of info for the UK.

It’s time to remedy this.

I’m just going to put a list here of info and links people have sent me when I requested info:

- The Office of National Statistics has some info; another set
- Data from Danny Dorling’s book

Major sources of info:1

- One Society also focused on Inequality
- EHRC data: ‘How Fair in Britain?’
- New Economics Foundation, which has a new report coming out
- The Equality Trust
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation

- Resolution Foundation: [report 1: figs 5, 9, 12, 16, 18 and 36) // report 2

So what do we need?
Well, for a start we need someone to find interesting info that can be turned into infographics (by richards). We need info that particularly stands out, or would look good as a graph contrasting with previous decades.

Second, we need people to help turn the info into pretty info-graphics. I’m willing to help with this bit, as I have my head in enough technical data already.

So come on leftie nerds – let’s do something useful than just come up with slogans eh?

Filed under: Economics
24th July, 2011

Practical environmentalism

by Rumbold at 6:07 pm    

Environmental campaigners often struggle to convince the wider public about the need to combat climate change. Whilst most people agree with the principle of protecting the environment in the abstract, they are suspicious of many of the suggestions that environmentalists put forward to tackle the problem of climate change. This is partly due to the hypocrisy of large numbers of political leaders and celebrities, who fly on private planes and have large houses while telling the rest of the world to cut back on energy use.

It is also due however to the nature of the proposals, which tend to consist of higher taxes, more regulation and greater government spending. Since climate change is a long term problem (albeit with short term effects), it is difficult to convey the need for instant action, so the focus shifts to the negative aspects of the plan (higher taxes), as well as the continued growth in emissions in places like China.

This is why any green proposal should always be tax neutral, so that any increase in taxes on one thing (such as fossil fuels), should be balanced by a tax cut elsewhere. This has the benefit of demonstrating to the public that climate change is not just an excuse to raise taxes. It is heartening therefore to see the results of such a system, introduced in a Canadian province in 2008. British Columbia introduced a carbon tax in this year, and all the major parties as well as businesses were against it:

When arguing for the carbon tax, Mr Campbell faced the same political obstacles that have stymied such plans elsewhere. Only environmentalists were enthusiastic. Businesses feared it would add to costs and slow the economy. The leftish New Democratic Party (NDP) worried it would hurt the poor. But these fears have proved groundless. “The carbon tax has been good for the environment, good for taxpayers and it hasn’t hurt the economy,” says Stewart Elgie, a professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa.

It helped that the law introducing the levy required its proceeds to be recycled back to individuals and companies as cuts in income taxes. The new tax was initially set at C$10 ($10) per tonne of carbon-dioxide emissions, rising by increments of C$5 per year to C$30 in 2012. It seems to be working as planned. Since 2008 fuel consumption per head in the province has dropped by 4.5%, more than elsewhere in Canada. British Columbians use less fuel than any other Canadians. And British Columbians pay lower income taxes too.

Would such a system here solve all environmental problems in a stroke? No, but it is better than the situation at the moment.

6th July, 2011

News of the World boycott

by Rumbold at 8:59 pm    

After the disgraceful revelations around the News of the World hacking case, the response from campaigners has been heartening. Rather than just criticise the News of the World, people have begun to threaten to boycott companies who carry on advertising with the paper. As of 5:15pm this evening, seventeen companies have already withdrawn their advertising, and more are likely to follow in the near future. Why is this heartening? Because it shows that activism can have an effect on an issue, as well as showing the benefits of leaving such campaigns up to a free market (companies don’t want to lose their customers, so they pull out), rather than calling for greater regulation etc. (which probably wouldn’t work anyway). Undoubtedly some companies would have considered pulling out anyway regardless of any campaign, however, increasing the pressure is on them is likely to see a better result.

Filed under: Economics,Media
4th July, 2011

Call centres choose Britain over India

by Rumbold at 9:31 am    

This is good news, and a consequence of rising costs in India, China and other places, as workers get paid more in those countries:

New Call Telecom, which competes with BT and Sky to offer home telephone services, broadband and low-cost international calls, is opening a call centre in Lancashire after being attracted by low commercial rents and cheap labour costs…

[The chief executive] said: ‘We did a cost and service analysis of returning home and there was an absolute parity between what we are paying for a third-party call centre in India and here in the UK.’ Mr Eastwood will employ 25 staff at rented premises in Burnley.

It also reflects non-wage issues too:

He says using British staff will also cut costs in the average amount of time taken to deal with customer inquiries. ‘The average handling time in the UK is three minutes. But if you go out to India, you need to add another minute unless it’s a very efficient operation, so that means we can actually reduce the headcount with the saving. In India in the past decade, as call centres have grown, real-estate prices have gone up massively, while salaries have also crept up.’

New Call will pay £4 a square foot for space in Burnley, which Mr Eastwood says is similar to that in Bombay and New Delhi.

As emerging market economies get richer, setting up businesses in places like the UK will become more attractive. Already companies from places like India are buying up companies in the UK, and thus employing tens of thousands of people.

Filed under: Economics,Economy,India
27th May, 2011

Leading by example

by Rumbold at 5:17 pm    

It has been revealed that David Cameron spent around £680,000 of taxpayers’ money on Downing Street last year:

Records of all government spending reveal nine bills for the refurbishment of Downing Street including £30,000 for work he and his wife Samantha carried out on the No 11 flat last summer. The centrepiece of their revamp was the kitchen, revealed this week in official photographs of the President Barack Obama’s state visit…

The other £653,192.34 was spent on external and internal renovation work to the offices and reception rooms in Downing Street, including cabling, plumbing and energy efficiency improvements. No 10 declined to specify further what the money was spent on and has previously refused Freedom of Information requests asking what changes have been made to the Grade I listed building since the election and the costs.

Clearly the Camerons should have a small taxpayer-funded allowance for repairs and renovations for their flat, since they live in Downing Street for work and security reasons. The money allocated should also reflect the cost of Central London and the need for vetting of staff. Yet the money spent seems excessive. It would be useful to have a breakdown of the money spent of thing like plumbing (it might or might not have needed doing, since there are offices there too).

However, the £30,000 for a kitchen, unless it was a complete shambles, is expensive, and David Cameron shouldn’t been lecturing the nation on the necessity of cutting back whilst spending excessive amounts of taxpayers’ money on a kitchen as opposed to something a rape crisis centre. Is it a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things? Yes. But it is the principle of it, as well as being real money which could help people. Some will also say that Labour were more wasteful in government. They were, but assessing the proper use of taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be measured at the lowest common denominator.

Filed under: Economics,Economy
7th April, 2011

One – the company that gives 100% of profits to charity

by Sunny at 12:42 pm    

I don’t normally write about brands (I don’t get paid for it dammit!) but the odd exception is good. I got invited to a little launch last week of this:

April sees the expansion of the pioneering ‘One’ brand into a new category – organic free range eggs. From April 4th you can help change lives simply by buying a pack of ‘One good eggs’ in Tesco.

One Good Egg, organic free range eggs will be launching nationwide in April – in Tesco, The Co-operative and Ocado.

You might say: WTF? Sunny is blogging about eggs?

There’s more to this. The company – One Difference – have a policy where they donate 100% of net profits to charity. More specifically, profits from specific products go to specific projects.

So, profits from the eggs go to egg farming projects in Africa. Profits from the bottled water goes to water projects, and so on. They also make toilet paper, that goes to fund clean latrines in developing countries. Awesome idea huh? They have a separate charity called One Foundation, which receives all profits from the company every financial year and distributes them.

Their idea is this: if you want to buy water, eggs or other products, and see the One brand, at least you know 100% of the profits from that are going to charity. I think its a good way to give to charity – their only problem seems to be lack of brand awareness. So here I am blogging about it.

Filed under: Economics
20th February, 2011

Why UKuncut doesn’t directly target the HMRC

by Sunny at 4:16 pm    

David Allen Green is a man with a fine lawyerly mind, but you wouldn’t want him to decide strategy for your campaign. He says UKuncut are choosing “the wrong targets”.

This ignores a basic campaign strategy if you’re trying to highlight an important issue: go for the most high profile target / example. That ensures the issue is much more discussed and debated, and therefore influences public opinion on the issue.

For years, campaigners for better workers rights in China didn’t focus on the Chinese govt or those who owned local factories – they focused on shaming Nike or Gap. And it worked.

And there is plenty of evidence to show that UKuncut’s focus on high street companies such as Vodafone, Topshop and now Barclays have forced tax avoidance on to public agenda agenda. It has also forced the HMRC to react in response.

So while this may be a logical piece of advice, but it is not the most astute or tactically useful piece of advice to any campaign.

This point is aside to whether you think tax avoidance is ok or not; it is purely about strategy. I’ve written a separate article with four reasons why tax avoidance harms our economy, including enabling terrorism.

Update: David further claims that UKuncut have had no impact other than “getting on telly”. This further misunderstands the campaign in several ways.

First, there has been a tangible impact on the HMRC. Secondly, part of their aim IS to raise tax avoidance as a widespread practice in the media. So, “getting on telly” is an entirely important part of that campaign, as it getting the Daily Mail on side to highlight corporate tax avoidance.

Third, as I keep pointing out, corporate tax avoidance is far more pernicious and widespread than personal tax avoidance.

Rumbold’s update: UKuncut’s claim that Barclays paid 1% tax has now been debunked.

Filed under: Economics
18th January, 2011

Muhammad Yunus in court and the attack on microcredit

by Rumbold at 9:26 am    

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of microcredit bank Grameen (an act for which he won the Nobel prize), has appeared in a Bangladeshi court charged with defaming a local politician. The charges relate to a 2007 interview when Mr. Yunus said:

Politicians in Bangladesh only work for money. There is no ideology here.

Attacking microcredit/microfinance institutions is an increasingly populist pastime in South Asia. The success of microcredit has made it a target for politicians around election time, as there are large numbers of people owing money to such lenders, so politicians bash them and encourage lenders to default. Even amongst economists, microcredit has remained controversial, with high loans rates compared to those in developed countries. Yet the alternative is far worse. Microcredit gives many poor individuals access to credit at far lower rates then they traditionally could afford:

On average, borrowers also owe over four times as much to informal lenders, which charge far higher rates, than they do to MFIs.

Default rates on MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions), remain very low, suggesting the debt is manageable.

Filed under: Bangladesh,Economics
23rd December, 2010

Asian Network DJ Sentenced For Carer’s Allowance claims

by guest at 10:38 am    

This is a cross-post by Sarah.

The case of Lubna Qazi has got me thinking. Mrs Qazi, 53, admitted falsely claiming Carer’s Allowance of up to £18,000 while working as a DJ for BBC Asian Network in Birmingham.

She began claiming the benefit in 2002 after her husband had a stroke. She started work at BBC Asian Network in early 2003- but for 7 years, she did not declare her job as a DJ to the DWP. She was earning more than the £95 a week allowed for people claiming Carer’s Allowance.

I am usually the last person to agree with benefit fraud. If Mrs Qazi had never been a carer and had claimed Carer’s Allowance, or if she had continued to claim the benefit after her husband had been cured of his health problems, I would have been the first person to strongly dislike her for this.

However, Mrs Qazi was genuinely her husband’s sole carer during the 7 years- a fact recognised by Birmingham Crown Court and the reason why she received a conditional discharge rather than a three month jail term. She has also been ordered to pay £100 legal costs and to return over £17,000 to the DWP.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Disability,Economics
10th November, 2010

A conversation between a student and a careworker

by Rumbold at 8:39 pm    

Careworker: What’s happening here?

Student: We are protesting the Con-Dem’s proposal to charge students £9,000 a year.

C: That’s high. What’s the system at the moment?

S: Well, we pay some fees, and the government pays the rest (around £20-25,000 over the three years).

C: The government? You mean the taxpayer?

S: I suppose so.

C: I earn £14,000 a year, and pay income tax, which means that I am paying for you at present then?

S: Yes, but society as a whole benefits. I am in my final year studying philosophy, and have a job lined up on £25,000 working for an advertising agency.

C: How does that benefit me?

S: The degree taught me how to think, and society needs people like me around.

C: Same question. I can’t afford to take a holiday this year to visit my family, so why should I be paying for you to get a better job?

S:For example, if you need a lawyer, then you will benefit from someone who has studied law.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Economics
6th October, 2010

Interesting Bloggingheads on the Economy

by Shariq at 8:28 pm    

I’d encourage people to listen to this. James Pinkerton is a conservative, but an extremely idiosyncratic one. He was anti-war for example and his ideas on economic development are interesting. Some of the arguments he makes on these points are probably in line with what lefties in the UK are/should be making.

2nd October, 2010

“Join us or die”

by Rumbold at 11:08 am    

That’s the message anyway from the new taxpayer-funded environmental campaign, backed by staunch environmentalists such as Peter Crouch (who takes the train or swims to European matches). The video sees two children murdered for refusing to back the 10:10 environmental campaign:

The video, (despite attempts to pass it off as humour) sums up all that is wrong with some elements of the environmental movement; it is smug, intolerant and hypocritical (that’s not to say though that there are not some genuinely committed and principled environmentalists out there).

I think that we need to tackle climate change. Whilst new technologies and improvements in renewable energy efficiency will undoubtedly help, at the moment the best thing we can do is to reduce energy issue by making carbon-emitting energy more expensive. This can be done through the tax system (as carbon emission are externalities). But this alone is not right, as people will just see it (understandably) as a way to raise extra revenue. This is why green taxes rises need to be balanced with tax cuts in other areas, particularly income tax and National Insurance.

Thus businesses and individuals who don’t emit that much carbon will see their tax bills fall, whilst heavy emitters will see their tax bills rise, which should encourage them to cut their carbon emissions , whether through cutting back for investing in more energy efficient products. Over time then, it should also reduce the tax take of the government, as long as the green taxes are significant enough to impact on behaviour. Chris Huhne has advocated such a policy recently:

The Liberal Democrat minister backed a call by his party’s activists which would see 10 per cent of all Government revenue come from green taxes within five years. Revenue from green taxes is currently forecast to fall from 6.9 per cent of the total to 6.5 per cent over the next five years. Raising the proportion to 10 per cent would require an extra £22billion – an unprecedented shift in the burden of taxation.

The LibDems claimed that raising more in green taxes would allow them to reduce other taxes. But critics last night dismissed it as a cynical move to squeeze more tax out of motorists.

16th September, 2010

The snobbery of the TUC (and others)

by Rumbold at 9:32 am    

The Office for National Statistics has published a report into the public-private sector pay gap. The report found that, including pension contributions, public sectors were paid on average thousands of pounds more a year then private sector workers. I haven’t read through the methodology, so can’t comment on any flaws or caveats. What I am more interested in is the reaction to the report, specifically by a senior TUC official:

Adam Lent, the head of economics for the TUC, said: “You can’t make direct comparisons. The public sector has many more professional and highly skilled workers within it than the private sector. Averages simply do not tell us anything useful.”

This might indeed be true. But what does it say about the TUC’s stance? Firstly, it could suggest that the TUC supports a free market in employment, which means they will no longer be campaigning against pay freezes. This can be deduced by the fact that Mr. Lent feels that the market should determine workers’ wages (by their qualifications), and not any external factors.

This may be a incorrect interpretation however. The other way to read it is that Mr. Lent feels that people with degrees/professional qualifications are better than those without, and so deserve higher wages. This is not a fallacy restricted to the TUC. An article in the Guardian recently articulated the same feelings. Why is this so? Well, if we let the market decide, that is not a problem. But if you don’t support a free market in employment (which the TUC doesn’t), then you have to make the case that degree-educated workers deserve more. Why though? Because they have sat in a classroom for a few years, as opposed to gaining experience working? This lacks an inherent logic (pay is determined by supply and demand, not educational achievement), as there is no reason other than market forces why say, a civil servant should receive higher wages than a cleaner. There is also a social mobility argument. Private school pupils are overrerepresented at the best universities, so presumably the way to encourage social mobility is for the state to place less emphasis on degree-educated individuals.

Since there is no intrinsic reason why degree-educated people and those with professional qualifications should receive higher pay than those without, the only justification could be snobbery and a sense of entitlement.

Filed under: Economics,Economy
28th July, 2010

Cameron to offer India say on immigration…?

by Sunny at 12:23 am    

Huh? I’m finding this somewhat hard to believe.

David Cameron is to offer India a direct say in drawing up Britain’s new immigration policy as Downing Street responds to fears in New Delhi that a proposed cap will harm trade links.

In a sign of what the prime minister will today describe as a new “spirit of humility” towards India, Downing Street is making it clear that Britain will consult Delhi over a proposed new cap on non-EU immigration.

Either it means the Tory free-marketeers have decisively trumped over the little-Englander ‘no immigration’ Tories, or it reflects on the country’s growing economic might and Cameron is just being very pragmatic.

As India prepares to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of its independence from Britain next month, the prime minister says Europe needs to accept the shift of economic power to Asia. “India’s economy is on an upward trajectory. In Britain, we’re waking up to a new reality.

I think I can hear the little-Englanders squealing in pain. The pragmatic free-marketeers have won.

18th July, 2010

Constrained by money? A response to Paul

by Sunny at 9:24 pm    

I’m more just writing down thoughts here… I was going to respond in the comments to Paul Cotterill but turning it into a blog post might be better. He says:

Now, what causes demand to outstrip supply to create rampant inflation? Well, mostly it’s when supply is constrained in some way.

Why was there huge inflation in Weimar Germany? Not because the government printed money, but because production in the Ruhr suddenly collapsed when the French and Belgian armies took over the area, after the Germans defaulted on the massively punitive reparations payments, and production collapsed.

Paul can take example of hyper-inflation to justify his point, but that doesn’t mean expanding the money supply endlessly has no impact on the economy. Let’s say supply of products in an economy doesn’t collapse. But if the government prints lots more money, it will eventually end up in the pockets of people. They will spend that extra money and suddenly demand will outstrip supply.

If you just keep it within the domestic economy, then it’s obvious why inflation will rise then. If however you’re importing a lot of good then it’s arguable that you could import more to fill that demand. But that would mean a trade deficit (you’re importing much more than you’re exporting) – which puts pressure on the currency, causing it to rise and hence inflation. Am I missing something here Paul?

Filed under: Economics
11th July, 2010

Cutting aid to India

by Rumbold at 3:22 pm    

The new Conservative minister for aid is considering slashing Britain’s £250 million aid contribution to India. The move comes after sustained criticism of giving aid to a country that spends billions of pounds on nuclear weapons and a space programme.

Is this a good idea? Let us assume for a moment that giving aid is a good thing, and that the aid we give India is effective, and doesn’t just go to erecting giant statues of politicians. The case for continuing large scale aid to India is that despite its huge economy, it is a poor country on a per capita measure; hundreds of millions still live in poverty, and this is likely to stay the case for years to come. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the Indian government or private donors would step in to continue any cancelled aid projects.

Against this are two arguments; opportunity cost and providing cover for the Indian government. The latter relates to the notion that foreign aid frees native governments fro having to provide equivalent services from their own resources. For example, if Britain is providing access to clean water for villages in the Punjab, the Punjabis will not bother to lobby their local politicians to provide this service. Thus the government will not be obliged to do so and the Punjabis will remain dependent on British aid unless they are rich enough to fund it privately themselves.

The former, opportunity cost, is the next best thing the money could be used for; either tax cuts, national debt reduction, spending on other departments or aid to other countries. So if it was used for aid for other countries, would spending in, say, Ethiopia, be more effective than spending the same amount in India?

There is no easy answer to this. Withdrawal of British aid cannot be conditional on the Indian government agreeing to provide the same services, as the government would simply refuse (knowing then that the aid would stay in place). Perhaps the best solution would be a phased withdrawal of aid, whereby no new projects are funded, and the old ones run their course. This would allow aid to be spent on other countries without imperilling potential vital projects which help some of India’s poorest.

Filed under: Economics,South Asia
22nd June, 2010

But what if people don’t blame Tories for public sector cuts?

by Sunny at 9:20 am    

I visited this topic yesterday and I’m going to go further with this a bit. Like most of my lefty colleagues, I don’t want public services cut massively. Some spending will have to be reduced, I think most people recognise that, but the bulk of the budget deficit shortfall should be made up through progressive tax-rises in my view (not VAT).

But many of my lefty colleagues (on Twitter and yesterday’s LibCon thread) are saying that once the Tory cuts kick in, the public will turn against them. And that will make them unpopular again. I disagree.

I think the Tories already saw that coming. So they decided that the best strategy was to overplay the debt crisis. It’s classic expectations management. With the economy supposedly on the brink, they can argue that the cuts were necessary to stabilise the economy. They make themselves sound prudent while conveniently blaming their ideologically driven cuts on Labour.

So my point is this. What if, 3-4 years from now, when public service cut start affecting people, they carry on believing the drastic cuts were Labour’s fault? That is certainly what the Tories will carry on arguing relentlessly. Stuart White suggests we collect stories of people being affected and make them the narrative. It’s a great idea. And if we can capture some hard-hitting stories that make the media narrative, the Tories will be on the back foot.

But they might empathise with how people are being affected, but still blame Labour. Remember, they don’t think as ideologically as we do. This is already the case.

My feeling is that while public service cuts speak to the base – they don’t translate well across everything. As Krishnan Guru-Murthy told me yesterday, the public actually want cuts. “They seemed to relish it” – he adds. The NHS is the only sacred cow.

My point is that it’s dangerous to assume the cuts will be unpopular. The Tories were elected on a promise of massive cuts. The public expects them. Secondly, it’s dangerous to assume that even if people are hurt by the cuts, that they’ll blame the Tories. Sure, this might change when it actually hurts them. But these are still dangerous assumptions not borne out by the polling.

My view is that the focus should remain on the state of the economy (which the Tories are trying to undermine) and unemployment (which will increase). That would annoy Middle-England much more than simply cuts.

Filed under: Economics
14th May, 2010

The Papal Bill

by Rumbold at 8:48 pm    

The Heresiarch speculates on the probable huge cost to the taxpayer for police overtime when Benedict XVI visits Britain later on this year:

Ratzo has been visiting Portugal, a country almost as bankrupt as the UK, and to the horror of British police observers, many well-wishers were allowed to come within egg-throwing distance. Meredydd Hughes, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire said that Portuguese police “have been much more relaxed and calm than we are about the distance the Pope is allowed to be from the people.” In the UK, there would be “many more physical barriers” – partly because of traditional British obsession with terrorist threats, but mainly because of “the anti-Papal protests which are expected in Britain.” Go and boo if you like, but he won’t be able to hear you. The taxpayer will be paying top whack for Operation Spare The Pope’s Blushes, naturally.

Filed under: Economics
3rd April, 2010

Speaking English as a foreign language

by Rumbold at 1:26 pm    

Most people agree that speaking the language of the country you are in benefits you. It doesn’t matter so much in certain circumstances, say if an English-speaking engineer went out to Dubai for a year, but in general it gives you a significant advantage: it gives you much greater access to services, the legal system and every day life. Some translations are provided, and while these are useful, they can only cover certain areas. The ability to speak the language is especially important when an individual is amongst the weakest in society, thanks to a lack of education, wealth, connections, and so forth.

It also benefits society as a whole, as it increases interaction, makes teachers’ lives easier and means the state has to spend less money on things like translations. Therefore it makes sense for the government and local councils to provide services in order to achieve this. Which is why it is wrong that one local council is essentially abolishing their service:

The founder of a renowned language service facing massive council funding cuts said she was “very sad” it was being axed after receiving an MBE for her 28 years with the organisation. Rosalind Carter was head of Hounslow Language Service (HLS) for nearly three decades, and it developed a national and international reputation for supporting children and families…

HLS now helps more than 7,000 youngsters from ethnic minorities to develop their English. But Hounslow Council announced last year it would end its £686,000 annual subsidy – axing up to 80 jobs and leaving just a handful of teachers and staff. Mrs Carter, who retired as head of HLS three years ago and now works as a part-time adviser, is among those who could face the axe.

It is not as if Hounslow Council are short of money.

14th February, 2010

Are you being ripped off by motor insurers?

by guest at 9:09 pm    

This is a guest post. The author is a retired barrister.

They tried it on with me. But they struck unlucky because this little old lady had access to free legal advice – her own, remembered albeit from long ago.

When a novice pulled outplace into the main road at the point when my car was passing, his insurers said from the outset that they would not be disputing liability. The bodywork damage was assessed by my repairers and theirs at around £1500, and I was vaguely aware of a doctrine to the effect that insurers were entitled to limit their indemnity to the value of the vehicle.

Having discussed this with my insurers I suggested that they drop out and let me deal with the other driver’s insurers with a view to securing a cash settlement. I also asked my own repairers to go ahead with repairs limited to around £750, which was enough to restore the car’s appearance to respectability (there was no damage to the working parts) and from my searches on the Autotrader website I reckoned that this would be close to the value of my car.

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Filed under: Economics
14th December, 2009

Israeli settler produce to be labelled

by Rumbold at 10:41 am    

The government has put pressure on British supermarkets to distinguish between West Bank goods produced by Palestinians and West Bank goods produced by Israeli settlers. The plan is designed to ensure that people can buy produce from the West Bank without money going to Israeli settlers:

Nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which were conquered in the 1967 war. The British government and the EU have repeatedly said Israel’s settlement project is an “obstacle to peace” in the Middle East.

EU law already requires a distinction to be made between goods originating in Israel and those from the occupied territories, though pro-Palestinian campaigners say this is not always observed.

Is this a good idea? Yes and no. In isolation, I don’t have a problem with it. Israeli settlement in the West Bank is a political issue, and this is a good way to support a particular point of view. I think that the settlements need to be dismantled, and so I am happy that if I bought certain items the money would go to the people who I think ought to live there. I am exercising my choice as a consumer.

In the wider scheme of things however, it seems like, once again, Israel is being singled out for special punishment. Whilst Israel deserves to be condemned over its settlements, this is part of a disturbing pattern. From Richard Ingram’s calls for Jews to identify their religion when commenting on the Middle East, to the laughably-named UN Human Rights Council which is obsessed with Israel, these sort of schemes only end up targeting Israel. Has the UK government called for supermarkets to differentiate between Han settlers and native Uighur produce? Or Han settlers and native Tibetan produce? Or any other number of areas where aggressive settlers backed by a powerful government have displaced the previous residents? Not that I am aware of. So the question becomes, once again, why Israel?

15th November, 2009

Sharia Finance still matters

by guest at 6:33 pm    

This is a guest post by Persephone.

Islamic finance (based on Sharia Law) is reinforcing London as a financial centre and supporting Britain’s property and financial sectors. Two of the largest property deals in Britain have been funded on the basis of Islamic finance:

1) The £1 billion Chelsea Barracks development is the most expensive property deal in Britain. Sold by the MoD to the Candy brothers and the Qatari government who plan to develop it into a housing estate of 638 market rate and affordable homes.

2) The Shard, a new landmark 310m tower above London Bridge Station will go ahead despite the withdrawal of lenders, such as Credit Suisse, during the credit crunch. It was saved by the financial backing of four Qatari banks and UK developers Sellar. The Tower is to become the home of Transport for London.

(The world of football may also benefit since Qatar is bidding to stage the 2022 World Cup.)

The principles of Islamic finance show Sharia to have an ethical side:

- Fairness: all make informed decisions, are not misled.
- Social justice: economic health of the majority – not wealth in the hands of the few.
- No usury or interest.
- Risk and profit is shared: profit distribution is based on effort not capital ownership.
- Contractual certainty and avoidance of ambiguity.
The advent of sharia law in the UK is wrongly perceived as being in the last 5-10 years and thereby linked as a by product of mass immigration brought about in the tenure of a Labour Government. In fact it has been used on commercial deals since the 80′s – at the height of the Conservatives.

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Filed under: Economics,Muslim

Thoughts on Dynamic Labour Markets and the Welfare State – Flexicurity Anyone?

by Shariq at 12:00 pm    

One of the most interesting things about the healthcare debate in America is how people who in theory support labour market flexibility, are opposed to having a healthcare safety net.

Especially in America, but also in Britain, a feature of the modern economy is that it is easy to fire people. This may seem like a bad thing, but it also has advantages – for instance that it encourages nascent firms to hire people without worrying that if things don’t go as planned, they will be tied down by surplus employees. This can promote more competition and lead to more dynamism in the economy, as younger more efficient firms are able to compete with more established, but less innovative ones.

The flip side to this is that as opposed to say thirty years ago, people don’t enter a job, or at least shouldn’t enter a job, with the expectation that they will be there for life.

This makes the social security safety net even more important than it might be in a more rigid labour market. So for instance, if like in the American system your healthcare is tied to your job, then it can wreck a family’s ability to get healthcare if they are out of employment and secondly, may also serve as a disincentive to work for a new firm which may be innovative and exciting, but also risky. If the firm goes bust, then not only do you have to relocate and find a new job, but also go without healthcare.

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Filed under: Economics
15th September, 2009

What Vince Cable would cut

by Rumbold at 4:21 pm    

I think this is what is needed. While more must be cut, at least the Liberal Democrats are willing to set out what they think should be abolished. The Conservatives make small suggestions, but they should be more open. People aren’t opposed to cuts in administration, but want to protect frontline services. The only way to do that is for politicians to take the lead, rather than leaving it up to civil servants, who will invariably protect themselves (at the expense of frontline services):

• Zero growth overall for public sector pay (saving £2.4bn a year), a 25% reduction in the total pay bill of staff earning over £100,000 and a salary freeze and end of bonuses for the civil service (saving £200m a year).

• Tapering the family element of the tax credit – saving £1.35bn.

• A radical review of public sector pensions with the view to moving to higher employee contributions and later retirement ages. There is currently a £28bn subsidy to unfunded schemes.

• Scrapping several major IT systems including the ID card scheme (£5bn over 10 years), Contactpoint (£200m over five years), the NHS IT scheme (£250m over the next five years) and the proposed “super database” (£6bn).

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Filed under: Economics,Economy
7th August, 2009

Regulating the banks

by Rumbold at 8:23 am    

Many people have discussed what to do about the banks. Burning Our Money provides one of the clearest debates I have seen to date about both the benefits and risks of regulation (it really is an excellent site):

“Crucially, we do have to split High Street retail deposit taking from investment banking activities – ie we need to implement our own Glass-Steagall Act (see this by the indefatigable Mr Stelzer).

The taxpayer has to guarantee high street bank customers against default on their own personal savings. Because history tells us that modern economies simply cannot operate if everyone keeps all their savings under the mattress.

But that is no reason to guarantee a bank’s liabilities to its wholesale creditors. They are mainly other banks and professional investors, and they should be required to consider the risk of default before ever committing funds. If they get it wrong, they should take the hit.”

Filed under: Economics,Economy
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