According to the recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global average temperature increase over the period 1850–1900 was about 1.1°C by the 2010s. Several countries in the world have seen increases in average temperatures approaching 2°C. From 1820 to 2016, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in most of the Western world grew by about 25 times, and in the non-Western world by 13.5 times. This economic growth has been associated with enormous improvements in different indicators of human well-being, such as higher life expectancy, lower child mortality, and lower malnutrition.
The IFO Institute (Munich) has just revised its forecast for the German economy. GDP is now expected to grow 2.5%. IFO’s previous prediction was 3.3% and the prediction the European Commission put forward last Summer was 3.6% (Fig.1). However, according to IFO the economy will rise 5.1% in 2022 and thus bring the country back where it was before the Covid-19 shock.
In early 2011, an unprecedented wave of political uprisings swept the Arab world. It was the so-called Arab Spring. Protesters in several Arab countries took to the street and demanded changes in governments, freedom, bread, and dignity. The main slogan was “the people want to bring the regimes to an end.” The reasons that inflamed the uprisings across the region included excessive levels of corruption, police brutality, lack of political freedoms, low levels of income along with high income inequality, high levels of youth unemployment and, last but not least, dictatorial regimes.
A four-day workweek or Universal Basic Income (UBI) straight away? Demands for shorter labour time, preferably complemented with compensatory wage increases, are a must-have for any electoral campaign. But do we really work more, at the expense of time spent with the family or leisurely activities? Do we really need new regulation to cut our working hours? While some workers do work long hours, generalisations are dangerous, as documented by the statistics on how we spend our time. Germany offers an interesting case study.
In spite of the attacks it has suffered in the past years, globalization is doing well. In particular, last November free trade supporters celebrated the birth of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement that includes the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. India initially took part in the negotiations but later decided to leave. The 15 RCEP member countries account for about 30% of the world population and 30% of global GDP, and are the largest trade bloc in history, larger than the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union. The deal will take effect 60 days after ratification by at least six ASEAN and three non-ASEAN signatories. Thus far, it was ratified by Japan, China, Singapore and Thailand. Presumably, RCEP will be operational by the end of this year.
„I hope that our government, more enlightened and more liberal than in the past,
will be in the future the true friend of the best and noblest cause that exists;
and that the name of England will forever be dear to the Greeks.“
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in a letter to Alexandros Mavrokordatos (February 22, 1825)
‘Towards a zero-risk society’ might be thought as the manifesto of a dishonest politician who tries to win voters’ support by promising to free them from any possible risk. A deceitful manifesto, however: although it could attract plenty of people and gather widespread consensus, the promise would be absurd.
Tourism positively affects the balance of payments, attracts new foreign direct investment and is key to stimulating economic development and cultural change in many countries. Its contribution to alleviating poverty is also significant. For every job directly created in the sector, about 1.5 additional jobs are created. In 2019, approximately 330 million workers were employed in the tourism industry worldwide. This amounts to about 10.3% of total global employment (6.9% in OECD countries).
A year ago this month, Boris Johnson took to the stage in Greenwich to deliver a paean to free trade. His central message was that, thanks to Brexit, the UK was finally “re-emerging after decades of hibernation as a campaigner for global free trade”. Twelve months on, it is appropriate to reflect on how far this rhetoric has turned into reality or not. Of course, the intervening period has been marked by two huge trade shocks: Brexit, which could be foreseen, and the Covid-19 pandemic, which could not. In their different ways, these two events have proved the difficulties inherent in the UK’s ability to fulfil the promise of being a free trade champion.
The African Continental Free Trade Area: A possible game-changer in African regional and international trade
In 2018, the African heads of state signed an agreement that has eventually brought to life the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). In July 2019, 54 of the 55 African Union states signed the Agreement, with Eritrea the only country staying out. Finally, on January 1st, 2021, the African Union officially launched the African Continental Free Trade Area, a step towards continental integration and the main target of the African Union Agenda 2063. It will be the world’s free trade area with the largest number of member countries, and is expected to be a game-changer in how Africans trade with each other and the rest of the world.