Germany introduced the so-called ‘bureaucracy brake’ in January 2015. Whenever new legislation is passed, the ‘one-in-one-out’ principle applies: it obliges the bureaucracy to eliminate old regulation whenever new rules are introduced, to avoid that that regulatory layers multiply and the burden for businesses increases. Since 2015, bureaucratic requirements actually decreased, and shows the German government does intend to cut red tape. Yet, it could do more. For example, the “bureaucracy brake” does not apply to EU guidelines and regulations; it ignores the cost of changing the rules; and leaves the size of the bureaucratic apparatus untouched.
According to a recent survey across 34 countries, more people worry about income inequality than about the current COVID-19 pandemic. Pessimism with regard to inequality appears to be particularly widespread in France, followed by Spain, Greece, and Germany.
Global inequality increased until the 1970s/80s. Yet, more recent historical developments show a different picture. In fact, global income inequality decreased significantly during the past decades. Those who care about decreasing global inequalities should advocate better institutional contexts, to enhance growth in poorer countries and ease migration flows on a global scale.
Young people’s attitudes towards retirement are contradictory: on the one hand, they don’t trust public pay-as-you-go pensions. According to recent surveys, around half of the respondents do not expect significant retirement income from this source. On the other hand, private efforts are insufficient to close the expected pensions gap.
Good news in the fight against the Corona pandemic have accompanied us during the last few weeks. On November 8th, the Mainz-based pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer announced that their vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in the decisive third round of tests. Exactly one week later, the US-based company Moderna presented similar promising data. The duo became a trio a week later: AstraZeneca also reported that its phase-3 tests were successful.
This year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize came as a real surprise. The World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations received the award “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.” In betting agencies, the most popular candidates were the World Health Organisation and Greta Thunberg. Very few had the WFP on their betting slips.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, comparing political and economic system appeared to have become a futile exercise. Western democracies had outperformed the socialist-communist social systems. Yet, thirty years later we see that no “End of History” has occurred, and that the fundamental question of economic systems is back. Despite being an authoritarian one-party state, China has become a global economic and military superpower. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rigorous action taken by the Chinese government is sometimes praised as effective and superior to that of the West.
As a reaction to COVID-19, governments are making extensive financial aid available. However, beyond helping out households and companies in need, aid also attracts opportunists. Because of this, the OSCE is expecting corruption to increase. Yet, this danger differs across countries, even within Europe, where corruption is less problematic than in other regions. In Scandinavian countries, corruption within the civil service affects people’s lives very mildly. In some countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, the situation is more complex but not hopeless, as shown by recent encouraging developments in a number of countries, e.g. Estonia.
Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb: these are only few of the numerous companies which have fundamentally changed our lives with new technologies in recent years. While their business models differ, none of the stars come from Europe. Apart from the serial entrepreneurs at Rocket Internet in Berlin, SAP is the only big digital corporation in Germany. Is there a role to play for the EU in the attempts to change this? Yes, there is. However, not by means of new subsidies and detailed regulation, but by keeping markets open.
Coronavirus has spread quickly across the globe. As a result, healthcare systems in several industrialised countries have been pushed to and beyond the verge of collapse. The virus has now also reached poorer countries in Africa. Although it spreads rather slowly there and hits a younger population, it is feared that people in poorer countries will be hit particularly hard considering the relatively ill-equipped healthcare systems. In these countries, healthcare does not meet Western standards. Yet, in recent years reveals significant improvements have taken place, and today most poor countries are better prepared for health challenges than they were 20 years ago. This also regards pandemics like the current one.
Five years ago, a US American hedge fund bought the distribution rights for Daraprim, a drug to cure AIDS. Overnight, the price went from $13.50 to $750.00. This price increase caused huge public outrage. Yet, high prices for pharmaceuticals are rather common in the US. No other healthcare system around the world spends as much on drugs. Partly responsible for this is the seldom used bargaining power of public insurance programmes on the one hand and, on the other hand, the market power of pharmaceutical firms caused by patents and licensing procedures.