British government rethinks development, putting peace first

Few people have a good word to say for the British government these days, few British voters anyway. But I like not to follow the crowd. And on international development, they have got something worthwhile going on. There are signs of a real rethink that has a chance of paving the way to making overseas aid more effective. Continue reading

Don’t throw up on Ryanair

During this decade the number of routes flown by Ryanair has increased by over 1,000 per cent. It currently carries more international passengers than any other airline. It has outdone the old-fashioned subsidised national airlines. Its disciplined, no-frills approach to the mass market for air travel is a wealth generating emblem of our age. Its boss even welcomes the recession and looks forward to the company being strengthened by it. Just one thing: if you’re flying Ryanair, don’t throw up.  Continue reading

IMF rejects its own economic estimates

On Wednesday the UK government budget was presented by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, and a pretty sorry tale he presented. But he has been hammered for being too optimistic because the IMF World Economic Outlook was published on British budget day. Its figures predict worse things than the UK government’s do and it is treated as authoritative. But why? Its new estimates reject the old ones it published with equal fanfare just three months ago. Continue reading

“Oops” – the IMF’s latest economic jargon

On the eve of the UK budget statement, the International Monetary Fund today estimated the cost to the British government and taxpayer of bailing out British banks to be £200 billion. That’s not how much we’re under-writing, guaranteeing or spinning. It’s money that we will have to actually pay out. Except, no it’s not. There’s no point giving you the link to the IMF web-site so you can see the fancy graph because they’ve, er, well, anyway it’s not there anymore. They took it down. It was wrong. Oops. Continue reading

Companies and conflict sensitivity in the recession

It’s a truism that the poor get the hardest by any economic problem, downturn, crunch or crisis. Likewise, the poor get left behind when the economic good times are rolling. It’s perhaps a faint hope, but might it be possible for those truisms to be at least a little less true for poor countries during this crisis and as recovery comes around? Continue reading

Obama in power (7): when disappointment gets plain silly

According to Naomi Klein in yesterday’s Guardian and the current Nation, there is a new vocabulary of dashed hopes about Obama. On the Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ site, she got a walloping from some of the blograts for despairing and criticising too soon though, to be fair, it’s not clear whether she was setting out her loss of belief in Obama or merely reporting  how others feel. Either way, it strikes me as plain silly. Continue reading

Obama in power (6):policies clarifying, pattern still hazy

By the time Obama was inaugurated, he had promised so much, there was a risk that he could only disappoint. Let’s not get too carried away in these tough times, but there is some much needed good news: perfect his administration is not, but the first signs in foreign policy are far from negative. This extended post surveys the key issues. Continue reading

Obama in power (5): does he need to be bipartisan?

Obama’s approach to the challenges of government is fascinating. Not yet 100 days into power, he seems to retain that combination of the cerebral strategist and the practical politician that, combined with clearly enunciated principles, made him such an attractive looking candidate. Whatever else you’re going to say about him, however you’re going to characterise him, “Same old, same old” is not it.

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G-20 outcomes and winners

Thursday’s G-20 summit communique was followed by an immediate hailstorm of judgements. The term “new world order” has been used more than once, which in principle is not out of order when the leaders of countries responsible for 90 per cent of world output are gathered together, and you know there is some kind of success when major world leaders queue up to claim the credit. Continue reading