Monthly Archives: August 2012

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s announcement on August 11 of Paul Ryan as his running mate drew a variety of responses, including cheers, jeers and even some comparisons to John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin in 2008.

But for all the media fervor over Ryan and his controversial budget plan, the polling response has been muted compared to 2008. The Real Clear Politics poll shows  Romney narrowing the gap from 4.6 points to 2.8 since the August 11 announcement.

But compared to 2008, the bump from Ryan looks inconsequential. Nine days after  McCain announced Palin as his running mate, the GOP hopeful had not only erased a 3.9 point deficit, he had taken a narrow 1 point lead.

 

Martin Stabe

The latest data from the FT/Economist Business Barometer, the quarterly global business sentiment survey, was published last week and the business-friendliness section again made for interesting reading.

France’s “business friendliness” has plummeted since the last barometer survey, which was conducted before before the election of François Hollande as president. For the first time, more of the business executives surveyed by the EIU rated the country’s ”unfriendly” than “friendly” to business. 

Kate Allen

The government has made admirable moves towards openness and transparency in recent years, with one landmark step being to publish all payments by government departments of £500 or more. Communities secretary Eric Pickles has gone further, this week deciding to start publishing all spending by his department of £250 and above.

But there is a problem. The spreadsheets list each individual payment, not total amounts per supplier. And suppliers’ VAT numbers are not provided. This makes summarising the payments – often across thousands of lines of data – a very difficult job for anyone aspiring to create aggregate figures.

Let’s take Mr Pickles’ department, Communities & Local Government, as an example. Its latest quarterly release contains 9,750 lines of data. It encompasses all sorts of activities, from PFI grants to mobile phone line rental charges. Many of the payments require an expert jargon-buster to interpret: did you know that “NNDR billing authorities receipts” means business tax?

The smallest payment listed during the period was £1.24 to Banner Business Supplies for stationery. The largest was £1.9bn to the Office of the Paymaster General (those NNDR billing authorities receipts again). A government department is a very complicated entity and trying to understand its activities through scrutinising its history of individual payments is rather like trying to write a biography of a subject by looking solely at their bank statements. 

Martin Stabe

Iran's weightlifters Behdad Salimikordasiabi and Sajjad Anoushiravani took gold and silver in the men's +105kg

As expected, the US and China topped the conventional Olympic medal tables (however you chose to sort them). But by merely achieving the expected, the sporting superpowers appear much farther down the FT’s weighted medal table, which ranks countries by how much they exceeded pre-Games expectations.

Our table benchmarked nations performance against macroeconomic factors known to affect Olympic performance, such as GDP and population.

Great Britain’s 29 gold medals and 65 overall was enough for third place on the FT table as well as the conventional table – an impressive feat given the handicap our methodology imposed on it by taking into account the host-nation advantage.  Here’s a look at some of the other nations that can leave London extremely happy, having greatly exceeded expectations. Some of them may surprise you. 

Martin Stabe

This scatterplot below shows how nations’ actual medal performance at London 2012 compares to the economic models used to construct the FT medal table, along with some of the underlying factors used by the models, such  GDP, population and performance at Beijing in 2008.

 

Martin Stabe

How does Great Britain’s haul of 65 medals, including 29 golds, compare to other recent host nations’ performance?

There can be little doubt that greater recent investment in elite sports is the main cause of  Great Britain’s impressive performance at these Olympics an uptick in performance compared with Beijing 2008 would have been expected regardless, because of a well-documented “host-nation effect” that sees the home team performed significantly better than it usually does.