Monthly Archives: October 2012

Keith Fray

How important is the economy in deciding the result of US presidential elections? Is it really the case that, as in the often-repeated phrase from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid!”? If so then a look at history may be useful.

A lot of commentary in this campaign has concerned the unemployment rate, usually reiterating that the only president since the 1930s to win re-election with unemployment above 7% was Ronald Reagan in 1984. The argument is usually made that, with unemployment around 8%, President Obama faces a huge task to win. Read more

Kate Allen

As the wrangling over the European Union budget hots up, some member states are getting tetchy about their contributions. Germany, France, Italy and the UK bear the brunt of the net costs. The UK is well known for regarding its payments as excessive, and some other high-paying countries are now joining in with the complaints.

At the other end of the scale, the biggest gainer under the current budget arrangements is clearly Poland. On a per-head basis, Luxembourg does extremely well out of the system – but its net gain includes the funding costs for various EU institutions, and so its apparent extravagance is perhaps misleading. Greece and Hungary also do pretty well. On a per-head basis, Lithuania and Latvia have reason to be cheerful. Most of the recent accession states do pretty well out of the current arrangement. Read more

Partial results from Ukraine’s parliamentary election on Sunday suggest a narrow victory for the governing party of Viktor Yanukovich, president since 2010.

It is still too early to say whether Yanukovich’s Party of Regions will be able to build a working majority, and at what political cost. But the election looks unlikely to make it any easier for Yanukovich to tackle his country’s pressing economic problems.

In autumn 2010 the IMF forecast growth for this year of nearly 5 per cent. It cut that forecast to 3 per cent a few weeks ago. That’s a significant revision, bearing in mind that the Fund cut its forecast for Russia by 1 percentage point, while for the whole CIS region its forecast for this year has fallen by only half a percentage point over the past two years.

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Kate Allen

Access to electricity is one of the key factors identified by the World Bank as essential for doing business. But that is difficult and time-consuming in some surprisingly well-off countries, its research shows.

European countries come out of the research particularly badly: eight are among the world’s worst 25 performers (or seven, if you don’t consider Azerbaijan part of Europe). The only other well-off countries in this list are Russia and South Africa. Read more

Keith Fray

US President Barack Obama (L) greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) following the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012 (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Two sets of impending economic data are likely to hit the headlines in the last days of the US presidential campaign: the first estimate of GDP for the third quarter of the year, out on Friday October 26, and the employment situation report for October, published on Friday November 2, four days before the election.

After the release of labour market data for September, President Obama’s camp made much of strong growth in hiring, up 114,000 compared with August, and a fall in the unemployment rate from 8.1 per cent to 7.8 per cent, taking the rate back to where it was when the president took office in 2009. Mitt Romney’s campaign countered that, if not for people exiting the labour market, the rate would be in double figures. Read more

Kate Allen

What have Georgia, Rwanda and Belarus got in common? According to the World Bank’s annual Doing Business project, which has been running for nearly a decade, these are the fastest improving countries in which to do business.

The most surprising inclusion for the outsider is obviously Rwanda. The central African nation has changed greatly since the horrific genocide in 1994-1995 for which it is most notorious. Just days ago, it took up a seat on the UN Security Council. And it is attempting to reduce its reliance on foreign aid donors, focusing instead on raising its own funding.

Most improved countries in which to do business since 2005 Read more