New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (widely known as AOC), has once again captured headlines with a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the US government to undertake a “10 year mobilization” to create a ‘Green New Deal’ (known by its own initials GND). Two weeks on and the resolution is now scheduled to go to the floor of the Senate where it was proposed by Democrat Senator Ed Markey. It will fail, but it has reinvigorated the debate on climate action within the Democratic Party. And in its alignment of climate action with a radical agenda of economic transformation it is raising the political stakes for business climate activism.
Between 1993 and 2017, the percentage of overweight or obese adults in England has risen from 53% to 64%. While year on year increases have remained stable, it is an ever-growing area of concern as population health shifts from mortality to morbidity. Meaning that though life expectancy is increasing, so are the number of years spent in ill health. It is undeniably one of the biggest risk factors in our modern society for non-communicable diseases, along with smoking and alcohol consumption.
French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, called this week for political oversight of the quasi-judicial commission merger control process, creating a new tool to help European industries compete internationally. With the European Parliament and European Commission entering a period of transition next month, national leaders will have space to set the agenda for an EU response to the unorthodox industrial and trade policies of the USA and China. How serious are the renewed calls for European Champions from Paris, and the idea that merger policy should be a political tool for creating them? They have found strong support from Berlin and from the current frontrunner to be next commission president, Manfred Weber.
During the Eurogroup meeting on February 11th, the European Commission is expected to present a detailed account of its decision to halt the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) against Italy. The back and forth between Brussels and Rome at the end of last year kept some of us at the edge of our seat. But the EDP was not only an existential crisis for Rome and the euro zone as a whole, but also for pro-Europeans in other member states, particularly the Netherlands.
We’ve now seen several votes in the House of Commons which are revealing about the appetite for rebellion on Brexit. Three stand out: the “meaningful vote” on January 15th; and the votes on the Brady and Cooper amendments two weeks later. The meaningful vote saw a record defeat for the government by a margin of 230, with 118 Conservatives rebelling against the party whip. The vote on the Brady amendment saw the government restore its majority, with 101 of the Conservative rebels returning to vote with the government alongside the 10 Democratic Unionists, giving the government a majority of 17. The Cooper amendment was defeated by 23 votes and was notable because 25 Labour MPs defied the party whip (see Fig 1).
The last couple of months have been “suboptimal” for Saudi Arabia, to say the least. The Khashoggi murder has brought the leadership around the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman under severe international and domestic pressure. Rumours of wider discontent with “MBS” were likely one reason why King Salman extended by another year costly household allowances at the expense of fiscal consolidation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the drop in the oil price in the last quarter of 2018 has reduced the kingdom’s growth prospects. The IMF’s recent WEO update downgraded the country’s GDP growth forecast by 0.6 percentage points. It is perhaps ironic then that Saudi Arabia’s arch rival, Iran, might well be Riyadh’s best hope in 2019 to reset some of its current problems.
Most assessments of the impact of AI on European labour markets conclude that it will have two key impacts: displacing human labour and driving productivity. In the long run, both of these effects can be positives. In the short run, they are likely to be disruptive and disorienting. The reach of automation into parts of the cognitive labour market that have heretofore been protected from it may be a social shock, and raises the prospect of a hollowed out labour market where elite cognitive labour and non-routine low-cost manual work sit above and below a disappearing landscape of traditional skilled middle class jobs in both manufacturing and services. While new roles are likely to be created as well as old ones displaced by machine judgement, the detail of this evolution is inherently uncertain in advance.
The initial promise of the internet age was for a free and open space to exchange information. However the advent of algorithm-driven content raises important questions about what we see, how much we share a common information landscape and the reliability of what we rely on for news.
AI is already transforming the delivery of financial services. This is true both at the highly sophisticated end of the market, where firms make use of AI to execute high-frequency trading strategies and at the level of the individual retail investor, where AI can tailor and deliver financial “robo-advice” to consumers. Deferring to machine judgement and automation is by no means new - automated trading is already the dominant form in most large markets. Yet AI clearly has much further to reach into financial decision making – from investment and trading strategies to client classification and product recommendations.
Healthcare systems across the OECD, whether publicly or privately funded, face a range of challenges that threaten their financial and operational sustainability. The demographic crunch is the backdrop to this. Life expectancy has risen inexorably over recent years, but quality of life has often failed to keep pace. More people are living longer, but frequently with complex, chronic conditions that require ongoing treatments. Health systems have to meet this increase in demand with constrained resources, especially since the global financial crisis. Publicly funded systems in particular have received fewer resources than required as governments seek to economise, leading in some cases to a rationing of care.