Are economic statistics – such as for inflation, growth and productivity – no longer reliable? And if not, what does this mean for economic policy and for businesses?
Just under a month following his first attendance before the European Council, Poland’s new Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has piqued Brussels’ interest in his young premiership with a major cabinet reshuffle. The move targets the most hard-line, nationalist ministers with portfolios core to the EU’s agenda: defence, foreign affairs, digital and the environment. The timing of this announcement – just before Morawiecki's meeting with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and vice-president Frans Timmermans – has been labelled by some as a canny attempt to appease Brussels. Should the reshuffle be interpreted in such a binary way?
For some time now, the two main political parties in the UK have been battling for the same group of voters who feel disenfranchised, left behind and have faced what some have dubbed the ‘lost decade’ of stagnant wage increases. Since the general election, however, this battle has intensified, and it is now the case that more weight is being given by both parties to policies with a clear retail value.
The latest sale process for Thomas International, a psychometric and aptitude assessment provider, is well timed to coincide with the UK government’s publication this month of its long-awaited careers strategy, which looks to rejuvenate a previously neglected area of education policy and could be a platform for growth in much-hyped ‘edtech’ provision.
One of the clichés in international cooperation is that national governments’ enthusiasm for sharing cost centres evaporates when talk turns to sharing profit centres. This explains the imbalance between joint investment in basic research and national commercial application of R&D, or the discrepancy between joint telecoms standards and ruthless national auctions for mobile phone spectrum. But it is the technocratic world of tax administration that traditionally exposes this most bluntly, with the need to raise revenue and to attract capital investment outweighing the desire for efficiency and fairness between national finance ministries. The final months of 2017 have delivered stark reminders that while the negative-sum game of tax secrecy may be ending, the incentives to play the negative-sum game of tax competition remain too strong for governments to resist.
Speaking at the One Planet Summit in Paris last week, EU Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis proposed a “major revamp of financial supervision” to accelerate Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The European Council supported these plans in Brussels last Thursday, including “pending legislative proposals” to “fully implement” Paris Agreement targets. While the details here seem vague, one key question is clear – how far must the EU go to address the persistent mismatch between investors’ short-term horizon and the long-term nature of sustainable projects?
Over the summer, it looked as if there might be a breakthrough in the long-stalled discussions over eurozone reform. Emmanuel Macron had been elected president of France, promising to overhaul the domestic labour market and make the country more economically competitive. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quick to spot the signal and the opportunity. She suggested that she might in turn be amenable to some long-held French ambitions for the currency union.
Vladimir Putin’s announcement to run for his fourth, and probably final, presidential term is no surprise. Thus far, all the polls indicate he will romp home on 18 March next year. Indeed, polling day has been moved to mark the anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea to reinforce the significance of Putin’s proudest achievement in his third term in office.
One of the most contested issues, before and since the referendum on UK membership of the EU, has been the potential impact of Brexit on the UK economy. The exercise is almost as difficult now as it was before the referendum, because we still don’t know what Brexit will mean for the UK’s trading relationships, or the regulatory environment in Britain, two issues that will have a significant bearing on the long-term economic consequences.
After the withdrawal of the liberal FDP from coalition negotiations, German politics is faced with a similar dilemma to Spain in 2015-2016: an inconclusive set of elections, the unwillingness of the centre-left to support the incumbent centre-right Prime Minister, and ultimately the possibility of another set of elections. In both instances, it was up to social democrats to resolve the stalemate; what lessons can the German Social Democrats (SPD) learn from the Spanish experience?