Monday, 30 September 2013

'It's Not Life, It's Survival': Crisis-hit Portuguese Forced to Live in Communes

The decision to resort to austerity has returned to bite the coalition government of Portugal, who've suffered defeat in local elections. The country is likely to see a third consecutive year of recession. And tax hikes and job cuts are forcing people to find new ways to survive, as Sara Firth reports.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Jackpot de l’Euromillions : Un très chanceux portugais

La cagnotte de l’euromillions a été gagné par un portugais qui rentrer chez lui avec plus de 65 million d’euros. »

Euroscepticism On Rise in France amid Demand to Boost Economy

Combating industrial decline while boosting economic growth. The French government faces a tough agenda in the coming years, as President Hollande tries to manouvere his country out of financial turmoil. And pressure is coming from both Brussels and Berlin to make sure he fulfills his promises, amid growing euro-scepticism. RT's Tessa Arcilla reports.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Good News – Foreigners Are Buying Up Britain

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: The present phase of globalisation is painful for the West, but we should see it through

Part of the anger many consumers feel about rising energy bills – opportunistically tapped into by the Labour leadership this week – is that foreigners are partly responsible. Since privatisation, Britain’s gas and electricity supply industry has become substantially foreign-owned. To the bogeyman of supposed profiteering can therefore be added a further demon – that of remote foreign ownership with no loyalty to these shores or interest in their economic wellbeing.

Twenty years ago, less than a fifth of the UK stock market was foreign-owned; new figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that the proportion has risen to 53.2 per cent, up nearly 10 percentage points in just three years. For the first time in history, UK plc is majority‑owned by foreigners.

What with the Asian invasion of London’s housing market, it sometimes seems the entire country is under the hammer. The recent Chinese purchase of the iconic Lloyd’s of London building in the City, and the Sunseeker yacht business in Poole, is further evidence of this mass sale of national silverware.

On one level, these trends should be viewed positively, for they demonstrate an economy of almost unparalleled openness and welcome. The rule of law, economic and political stability, and a still relatively competitive tax system make Britain attractive to foreign investment. It was these virtues that Labour’s Ed Miliband put at risk this week with his ill-thought-out wealth grab.

Yet there is also a more negative side to the story, for burgeoning foreign ownership is only the flip side of a persistent current account deficit – Britain ran a deficit of a massive 5.5 per cent of GDP in the first quarter of this year. So much for the economic recovery; it’s happening all right, but it is also based as much on a continued propensity to live well beyond our means as it is on the solid foundations of rising productivity and enhanced competitiveness. » | Jeremy Warner | Thursday, September 26, 2013

My comment:

Have you not heard the old saying: He who pays the piper calls the tune? Only a fool would think it a good thing that foreigners are buying up Britain. What good can possibly ever come of that?

The British political élite behave like prostitutes: They prostitute themselves; they prostitute the country's assets; they prostitute the country – and leave the rest of us like slaves to foreign powers.

This is a disgraceful situation. It is a situation which even a bright child in junior school would be able to understand as being stupid. Yet the powers-that-be do not. Incredible!

What happens if a major war broke out? We wouldn't be in control of our country: We wouldn't be in control of the water supply; we wouldn't be in control of the power supplies; and now, it seems, we won't be in control even of our money supply. And you, Mr. Warner, call this a good thing? Where did you study your economics, your history? Naïveté is a mild word for this nonsense.

Look at the successful countries in Europe: Germany and Switzerland as perfect examples. Do you think the Germans or Swiss would allow this? Go try and buy a property in Switzerland and see what restrictions apply. It will be an eye-opener for you.

I am tired of being governed by nitwits. I am tired of my country being driven into the ground. I am tired of my country being raped. And if I ask myself if I am proud to be British, my answer is not really. I used to be, for sure. But there is little left to be proud of. The country has been brought to its knees. And it will be all even worse from here on in. Rule Britannia? I don't think so. It can no longer rule itself, still less the waves. – © Mark

This comment appears here too.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Angela Merkel Isolated as Potential Allies Demand End to Austerity

THE INDEPENDENT: The German leader’s party finds itself without options after romping home in the polls

Germany’s Social Democrats threw down the gauntlet to Chancellor Angela Merkel today and insisted she would have to end her controversial European austerity policies if they were to form a grand coalition with her conservatives in the wake of Sunday’s general election.

The demand came from Martin Schulz, the influential Social Democrat (SPD) president of the European Parliament, as Ms Merkel faced the difficult task of finding a willing coalition partner for her victorious Christian Democrats (CDU), which fell just short of gaining an absolute majority in Sunday’s vote.

Interviewed for a special post-election edition of Der Spiegel, Mr Schulz was asked about Ms Merkel’s austerity regime in financially stricken southern Europe: “Merkel will not be able to continue with these policies,” he told the magazine bluntly.

Mr Schulz insisted that in a coalition with his party, Ms Merkel would have to “do something” about mass youth unemployment in the region. “Merkel must follow up her words of social concern with action,” he said. For her part Ms Merkel declared at a press conference on Monday: “Our policy on Europe will not change.” » | Tony Paterson | Berlin | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Swiss Scientists Invent Advanced Solar Power System

Researchers in Switzerland say they can now use the power of the sun to save the planet.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Time's Up for Siestas, Delayed Meetings and Late Nights, Spaniards Told in Effort to Make Them Work Better

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Spaniards should ditch their siesta culture, stop being late for meetings and get to bed earlier, MPs have been told.

Their three-hour lunch breaks have long been the envy of workers in neighbouring countries, their business meetings often start late and millions of them rarely get to bed till well after midnight.

But now Spaniards face growing pressure to give up their siestas, bring their working day into line with the rest of western Europe - and switch their clocks to the same time zone as Britain.

A parliamentary commission has called for fundamental reform to traditional working hours and practices as part of Spain's effort to break out of recession and reduce the chronic unemployment that has dogged its economy for the best part of a decade.

The review, by the National Commission for the Rationalisation of Working Hours, is expected to win the backing of a panel of MPs on Thursday.

"We need more flexible working hours, to cut our lunch breaks, to streamline business meetings by setting time limits for them, and to practise and demand punctuality," says the report. » | Martin Roberts in Madrid | Monday, September 23, 2013

Bank Targeted Growth for Rate Decisions, Ben Broadbent Says

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: A Bank of England policymaker has admitted the widely-held belief that interest rates have been set in response to changes in growth rather than the official inflation mandate.

Ben Broadbent, an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), made the revelation as part of an attempt to explain the Bank’s new 7pc unemployment target, which he claimed was now more relevant than growth due to productivity bottlenecks in the economy.

Economists have long suspected the Bank was targeting growth because inflation has been well above the 2pc target for the bulk of the past five years. The Bank has always been careful to stress its inflation-fighting credentials, though.

In a speech to the London Business School, Mr Broadbent said the statistical evidence proved the MPC had used growth throughout the past decade as a proxy for the future direction of inflation.

“UK monetary policy responded sensitively, immediately and more or less uniquely to actual growth in output,” he said. “The reason, I believe, is that every acceleration in output was thought to represent a rise in output gap, signalling higher inflation risks, every drop in growth the opposite.”

With the economy now suffering from a complex productivity problem, he argued that unemployment is a better gauge of how rapidly inflation will pick up. Read on and comment » | Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor | Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday, 22 September 2013

One in Three Britons Struggling to Feed Themselves

THE INDEPENDENT: A Which? survey out today reveals that rising grocery bills are causing real hardship

The rise in the price of food is an extra source of stress for households who are already struggling to make ends meet, new research has revealed.

A survey by the consumer group Which? shows that as incomes stagnate, eight in 10 people in Britain are concerned that food is too expensive, and more than half worry about how they will pay for their groceries in the future if prices continue to climb.

The findings come at a time when the cost of food has grown over and above general inflation by 12.6 percentage points over the last six years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Since last year, the price of food and alcoholic drinks rose by 3.9 per cent on average. However, in the same period, incomes rose by only 2.1 per cent, with three-quarters of consumers saying their income has stayed the same or decreased in the last year. The result of this is that three in 10 people now struggle to feed themselves or their family. » | Kashmiri Gander | Sunday, September 22, 2013

Richard Wilkinson: How Economic Inequality Harms Societies

Move Over Organic – The New Big Business in Food Is Halal

THE INDEPENDENT: This week's Halal Food Festival is attracting interest among a growing group of foodies beyond the Muslim community

Their culinary buzzword is provenance; they know their Jamie from their Nigella; and they have the spare cash to splash on eating out, if they could only find the right restaurants. The catch is that any meat they eat must be halal, on either religious or taste grounds.

Meet the Haloodies, a growing group of food lovers who are bored of curries, fed up with kebabs, and long for nothing more exotic than a shepherd's pie. Their increasing spending power has sparked a race among retailers, wholesalers and canny restaurateurs to carve out a chunk of a market that is worth about £420bn globally.

This week an estimated 20,000 Haloodies will congregate in east London at the Halal Food Festival, the world's first gastronomic celebration of halal produce. All of the UK's major supermarket chains are sending scouts to help them find ways to exploit the trend. Attendees can browse food stalls offering anything from hot dogs and sushi to French and Moroccan dishes without worrying how the meat was killed or even transported.

Imran Kausar, a doctor by training, who masterminded the festival, said British Muslims were no longer "economic migrants trying to make do [but] affluent and aspirational members of the middle class [who wanted to] expand their culinary horizon." He added: "While typical British dishes have got more exotic, Muslims want the reverse. We want regular stuff like shepherd's pie, which we see everywhere but we can't try." Read on and comment » | Susie Mesure | Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pope Attacks Global Economics for Worshipping 'God of Money'

REUTERS.COM: Pope Francis made one of his strongest attacks on the global economic system on Sunday, saying it could no longer be based on a "god called money" and urged the unemployed to fight for work.

Francis, at the start of a day-long trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners in hard hats who told him of their situation, and improvised for nearly 20 minutes.

"I find suffering here ... It weakens you and robs you of hope," he said. "Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity."

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

Mattana, his voice trembling, told the pope that unemployment "oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul".

The crowd of about 20,000 people in a square near the city port chanted what Francis called a prayer for "work, work, work". They cheered each time he spoke of the rights of workers and the personal devastation caused by joblessness.

The pope, who later celebrated Mass for some 300,000 people outside the city's cathedral, told them: "We don't want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money."

"The world has become an idolator of this god called money," he said.

Sardinia's coast is famous for its idyllic beaches, exclusive resorts and seaside palatial residences of some of the world's richest people, including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and a host of Hollywood actors.

But much of the island, particularly its large cities and the vast agricultural and industrial interior, has been blighted by the economic crisis, with factories closed and mines operating at low capacity. » | Philip Pullella | Cagliari, Sardinia | Edited by Will Waterman | Sunday, September 22, 2013

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Greece Seized by New Sense of Foreboding as Violence Flares in Streets

THE GUARDIAN: Clashes between far-right Golden Dawn and anti-fascists raise fears that crisis has reached new stage

It was not the scene that Greece's international stewards envisaged when they last visited the country at the epicentre of Europe's financial mess. When representatives of the "troika" of creditors arrived in June, book-keeping in Athens had been problem-free and monitors described their inspection tour as "almost boring". The great Greek debt crisis, it seemed, had finally gone quiet.

But when mission heads representing the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank fly into Athens on Sunday – for the start of a review upon which the future of Greece will hang – what they will find is a country teetering on the edge: its people divided as never before, its mood brittle, its streets the setting for running battles between anti-fascists and neo-Nazis. And unions girding for battle.

After six years of recession, four years of austerity and the biggest financial rescue programme in global history, it is clear that Greeks have moved into another phase, beyond the fear, fatigue and fury engendered by record levels of poverty and unemployment.

Along with the teargas – fired on Monday for the first time in more than a year outside the administrative reform ministry – there is a new sense of foreboding: a belief that they might never be "saved" and, worse still, could turn against each other.

This week's murder of the hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a member of the far-right Golden Dawn party highlighted that fear. Read on and comment » | Helena Smith in Athens | Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday, 20 September 2013

Austerity to Push 25 Million More Europeans into Poverty by 2025 - Report

Inequality, unemployment, soaring debt - Europe's had its share of troubles in the five years since the financial crisis struck. The aggressive austerity programmes launched to cure the ailing economy appear to have made everyday life worse. A new report suggests almost a third of Europeans will live in poverty by 2025.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Most of Us Will Have to Work until We Drop

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: The idea of a long and happy retirement is a myth for all but a minority of people, a stark new official analysis of the nation’s health suggests.

New projections by the Office for National Statistics show that in many parts of the country even future generations will see their health effectively broken long before they reach pension age.

In some areas an average baby born today can expect to see their health deteriorate irrevocably up to 10 years before they are due to retire.

Even when wide regional variations are taken into account, the average so-called “healthy life expectancy” – the length of time people would normally expect to lead a full and active life – in England is below the state pension age.

It calls into the question one of the strongest arguments for increasing the retirement age: that because people are living longer than in the past they should also have to work longer.

But the report also exposes a dramatic divide between north and south as well as the wealthiest and poorest neighbourhoods.

Children in the some better-off areas can now expect to remain fit and healthy as much as 18 years longer than their poorer counterparts. Read on and comment » | John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hat Mutti doch recht?

TAGES ANZEIGER: Kanzlerin Angela Merkels strenge Sparpolitik wird seit Jahren von vielen angelsächsischen Ökonomen kritisiert. Umso überraschender kommt nun das Votum des «Economist»: «Stick with Mutti.»

Der deutsche Finanzminister Wolfgang Schäuble hat in der «Financial Times» Entwarnung gegeben: «Die Welt sollte die positiven wirtschaftlichen Signale bejubeln, die uns die Eurozone derzeit beinahe täglich sendet», triumphierte Schäuble und zählte gleich auf, was seine Regierung alles richtig macht: Deutschland investierte noch nie so viel in Forschung und Infrastruktur wie in den letzten Jahren. Deutschland hat gesunde Staatsfinanzen, eine sinkende Zahl von Arbeitslosen und eine boomende Binnennachfrage.

Und was die Austeritätpolitik betriff, die sein Land angeblich den Defizitländern aufbürdet – alles Unsinn. O-Ton Schäuble: «In nur drei Jahren hat sich das gesamte Defizit der öffentlichen Hand in Europa halbiert, die Lohnstückkosten und die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit passen sich an, die Bilanzen der Banken verbessern sich und die Defizite der Leistungsbilanzen verschwinden. Im zweiten Quartal ist die Rezession in der Eurozone zu Ende gegangen.» Halleluja und Amen, ist man geneigt zu rufen. Die britische Charme-Offensive » | Eine Analyse von Philipp Löpfe | Mittwoch, 18. September 2013

Suicides Rise Amid Global Recession

A new report has found that suicide has been on the rise, after the economic crisis in 2008.

Austerity Fury: Striking Greeks Clash with Police, Teargased as Crisis Deepens

A five-day nationwide strike by public sector workers in Greece is now entering entered day three with thousands flooding the streets to vent their anger over drastic state spending cuts. The country's economy has shrunk by almost a quarter since 2008 and forecasts indicate a further decline this year. And despite having received 2 massive bailout packages from international lenders Athens still needs about 10 billion euros more. RT's Lucy Kafanov reports from the Greek capital.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Day the Markets Died: '5 Years On, Wall Street Learned Nothing'

This week Katie Pilbeam explores the Lehman's legacy half a decade after the US investment bank collapsed -- the biggest bankruptcy in history - questioning whether or not the risks of an overinflated debt and property balloon have been learned. Plus -- the virtual currency Bitcoin will soon be available at a ATM near you - Katie speaks to the brains behind the machines and also catches up with the CEO of Citroën at the Frankfurt Motor Show to discuss the rocky road ahead for the struggling European car market, as well as this week's most exciting corporate news.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

14 Mega-homes For Sale in London's Best Areas ... If You Have £50m

LONDON EVENING STANDARD: More £50 million-plus mansions in central London have “for sale” boards than at any time on record, a report claims today.

Around £1.7 billion worth of property in the capital’s most elite postcodes are on the market, being prepared for sale or have been sold in recent months.

The rare glut of around 14 mega-homes at the very pinnacle of the London market means there may be a chance to pick up a “bargain” — for buyers with a nine-figure budget at their disposal.

Oliver Hooper, director of Belgravia-based buying agency Huntly Hooper, said: “We have noticed more of these super-prime houses becoming publicly available for sale in the last year and where they used to be kept confidential, details of them have fallen into the public domain as they take longer to sell...

“With this increase in levels of supply, we suspect there may be opportunities to be had for buyers at this level, although we note that the vendors tend not to be in any financial need to sell.”

The homes have an average value of more than £120 million, over 300 times the average property price in London. There are thought to be only about 60 homes worth more than £50 million in the whole of central London. » | Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor | | Friday, September 13, 2013

Monday, 2 September 2013

Angela Merkel Defends Greek Austerity Measures in Leadership Debate

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is criticised by leadership rival Peer Steinbrück over austerity measures in Greece, during a televised debate prior to the German elections. Steinbrück, a Social Democratic Party politician, says pressure put on Greece to meet bailout requirements is sending the country into a 'downward spiral'. Merkel defends the measures, saying Greece did not meet Eurozone economic requirements when it initially joined

Related »

Angela Merkel's Rival Accuses Her of 'Deadly Austerity' in TV Debate

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: German chancellor Angela Merkel and her opposition challenger have clashed over her strategy for handling the euro-zone crisis in a TV debate – as he accused her of prescribing a “deadly dose” of austerity.

Social Democrat candidate Peer Steinbrück said the government’s crisis strategy had failed: “what is lacking is a rebuilding program, what is lacking is a growth impulse.”

Mrs Merkel defended her record, pointing out that Germany had escaped high unemployment and was “the motor of growth, the anchor of stability” in Europe.

Polls give the Chancellor’s Christian Democrats a wide lead over the main opposition ahead of elections on September 22.

So far, she has ignored her challenger – declining to mention his name on the campaign trail - while he has struggled to define a distinctive programme. Mrs Merkel candidly admits to stealing attractive opposition policies such as controls on rises in private rents.

Mrs Merkel's finance minister admitted last month that there would have to be a third aid programme for Greece after the current one ends in 2014.

In recent months, Berlin softened its demands for fiscal rigour in the eurozone, making plain that it is willing to allow more time to cut deficits in exchange for economic reforms.

Mr Steinbrück put social justice at the heart of his pitch for office, pointing out that Germany has one of the largest low wage sectors in Europe, with over 7m people earning less than his party’s proposed €8.50 per hour minimum wage. » | Jeevan Vasagar, Berlin | Sunday, September 01, 2013