Last week, the UK government’s Digital Competition Experts Panel published its report ‘Unlocking digital competition’, addressing the role and economic power of large tech firms. The report, also known as the Furman review after lead author Jason Furman, may not have been obvious reading for the energy sector on a day when the Chancellor announced several climate measures in his Spring statement. But the digitalisation of the energy sector has made these the new frontiers of policy, and the review deserves close reading.
I recently listened to a presentation by Al Gore on ‘Sustainable Capitalism and the Climate Crisis’ at Carne and Dechert’s Funds Congress. Gore highlighted the growing risk to financial markets from climate change. Like David Wallace-Wells (in his recent Uninhabitable Earth), he is not afraid of sounding apocalyptic.
UK: Global Counsel Senior Director Stephen Adams and Chief Economist Gregor Irwin discuss US investors' attitudes to Brexit, looking at challenges and opportunities for US investors in a post-Brexit UK, following Gregor's recent trip to North America.
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.