Berlusconi, the billionaire former Italian prime minister pledged to reimburse Italians €4bn for an unpopular property tax. This is probably the first time he has promised to give money back, but it is definitely not the first time he has pledged to cut taxes.
Berlusconi lavished promises of tax cuts periodically throughout the past decade, but he failed to translate them into reality, even when he was in power from 2001 to 2006 and again from 2008 to the end of 2011.
In fact, according to the OECD the average income tax rate increased in Italy across all types of households, whereas it was reduced in most other OECD countries. Read more
How much do parents value a safe environment, green spaces and a good education for their children? Such things are priceless – except that, of course, they are not. The best things in life may be free, but buying a house in the vicinity of the best things in life is expensive.
Economic researchers use house prices like a movie jewel-thief uses an aerosol spray. The aerosol isn’t important by itself, but it reveals the otherwise invisible laser beams that will trigger the alarm. The house prices aren’t necessarily of much direct interest, but indirectly they reveal our willingness to pay for anything from a neighbourhood free of known sex offenders to the more familiar example of a popular school. Read more
Once the US presidential campaign is finished and the election won, the victorious candidate could be forgiven for thinking that the hard work has been completed. Whatever the state of the economy, the voters have chosen their set of policies and all that is needed now is to begin implementing them.
But the economy that the (re-)elected candidate thinks he is set to inherit may turn out to be quite different by the time of his inauguration. Read more
Labour productivity continues to fall in the UK, today’s latest ONS release shows.
Output per hour dropped by 0.2% in Quarter 3, 2012, compared to the previous quarter. This means a fall of over 2% compared to the same period last year and over 3% compared to the pre-crisis period. This is a particularly striking drop considering than in the five years before the financial crisis labour productivity rose by over 12%.
The reasons for this remain rather a puzzle. And a look at other European countries confirms that the UK is unusual. But it’s not unique. Most core European countries had a drop in productivity levels compared to those in the US. But their performance varied considerably during the last few years of economic crisis, as this chart highlights … Read more
Chinese exports grew less than expected in November, fueling fears of a further economic slowdown. But exports from western inland Chinese regions have never grown so fast as in 2012, beating export growth rates of the rich industrial coastal regions.
Chinese export growth declined to 2.9 per cent in November from 11.6 per cent in October. On a rolling 12-month sum exports grew at an annual rate of 7.9 per cent in November, a figure well below the more than 30 per cent growth of the late 2010 and early 2011 and marks a 28-month record low. But not all regions in China experienced the same slowdown.
The Treasury’s long-awaited review of the Private Finance Initiative has been released as part of today’s Autumn Statement. It contains some pretty damning findings – and some interesting proposals for the years ahead.
Firstly, it’s ditching the much-maligned name “PFI”. Instead, from now on we will have “PF2″. Get used to it. Here are some of the other interesting points in the report. Read more
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, has written up a paper on Swedish school reforms, which you can download here. I thought it was worth using to quickly flag up two important statistical public policy points.
The context to this is that Sweden has, since the early 1990s, allowed private (including for-profit) institutions to enter the school system – and parallels are often drawn between it and the ongoing reforms of England’s school system. This paper, as Fraser rightly says, comes to the view that increasing the volume of private schools in an area is associated with improved results. Mikael Lindahl and Anders Böhlmark say:
If we transform our estimates to standard deviation (S.D.) units (using the variation across all individuals) we find that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of independent-school students has resulted in 0.07 S.D. higher average educational achievement at the end of compulsory school.
(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
No one should be under any doubt. Jill Matheson, the national statistician, is consulting on changing the mathematical formula underpinning the venerable retail price index because the Office for National Statistics wants it changed. Consultations are not launched when experts think the status quo is fine.
At the heart of the issue is the realisation that the RPI formula is deficient and out-of-date. Continuing with the current method is the equivalent of Britain still thinking a 1970s Austin Allegro is cool, while the rest of the world is driving the latest Mini.
For market traders, economists, and data geeks alike, Friday is one of the highlights of the month – non-farm payrolls day.
For the uninitiated this is the release of data on US jobs growth over the previous month – more properly called the Employment Situation report - published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, usually on the first Friday of the month following the data (i.e Friday’s new data will be for August).
It is undoubtedly the most eagerly awaited monthly data by world markets and has attained a totemic status, perhaps beyond its real importance. Morning trading volumes are slim in European markets on the day of release as they await the afternoon release time (8.30am Eastern Time in the US).
Why do non-US markets care so much? Well if China continues to grow at current levels then the US will surrender its status as the world’s largest economy in the next decade (and probably in the current decade if measured in purchasing power parity terms). For now though, the US remains the bellwether of the world economy, accounting for a fifth of global output.
Should we care as much as the markets seem to? How important are these numbers? What should we be looking for? Read more
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. Read more
By guest contributor Paul Hodges
I suggested in an earlier post that chemical prices were an excellent leading indicator for the health of the global economy. The data highlighted that firms were finding it difficult to pass through crude oil related price increases. In turn, this was a warning that both the global and Chinese economies might be slowing faster than generally supposed. This caution since seems to have been amply justified.
Thus a new initiative by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) deserves watching. The ACC is the trade body for the US chemical industry, and it has developed a new Chemicals Activity Barometer which aims to provide early warning of changes in the wider US economy.
We launched the FT’s economically-weighted medal table on Sunday night.
Rather than ranking the table in the conventional format – gold medals followed, where equal, by silver medals and finally bronze medals – we are ranking counties by their performance against a benchmark developed from four economic models. These predict success on the basis of socioeconomic factors that have been shown to contribute to Olympic performance historically.
Even on our weighted measure, China leads with its 12 medals, representing 4.6 more than would be expected at this stage of the games. Italy’s seven medals place its over-achievement to date hundredths of a percentage point behind. Great Britain, by contrast, is near the foot of our table, underachieving by 2.8 medals so far. Read more
Over the next two weeks, the Olympic “medal table”, ranking nations according to the number of gold, silver and bronze medals their athletes have collected in London will be widely reported.
But there will be few surprises: The United States, China and Russia will almost certainly top the table, followed by the smaller wealthy countries. Great Britain will most likely fare better than usual, because the host nation usually does.
Population, GDP per capita, past performance and “home advantage” appear to have a strong relationship to nations’ Olympic success, a common-sense observation that has long been demonstrated by social science.
Substantial academic literature, stretching back to the 1950s, has been produced by economists, sociologists and political scientists using statistical techniques to relate nations’ macroeconomic conditions to their Olympic performance, and forecasting upcoming games.
Typically, these take the form of regression analyses that use historical macroeconomic data as independent variables to account for participating countries’ medal share at the Olympics.
During the London games, the FT will use
three four such models as a benchmark to rank our medal table according to teams’ ability to outperform models that account for their size, wealth and other socioeconomic factors: Read more
There has been speculation recently that the government is planning to divert millions of pounds in NHS funds from deprived urban areas in the north, to leafy, Conservative voting constituencies in the south.
This stems from health secretary Andrew Lansley’s recent comment that “age is the principal determinant of health need” and that distribution of the £100bn budget for the NHS in England should “get progressively to a greater focus on what are the actual determinants of health need.”
Somewhere along the line, those comments were interpreted by a generally cheesed-off medical profession that Mr Lansley intends to introduce an “age-only” NHS allocation formula, switching substantial NHS funds from, generally younger, Labour-voting constituencies in north to the octogenarians who thrive in the Conservative-voting villages of the south.
It’s a good story, which might even contain elements of the truth, but the reality, as ever, is a little more complicated.
At present, five separate allocation formulae are used to divvy up different bits of the £100bn NHS pot to different areas of England. The largest share – the hospital care budget – is divided up using one formula, while four others – mental health, GP prescribing, health inequalities (more on that in a later post) and maternity – are each allocated using their own separate formula. (Think for a second about the demographics driving the demand for maternity services as opposed to, say, hip replacements, and you will grasp why this makes sense.)
Health economists and statisticians frequently tweak and argue over these formula in order to move, hopefully, ever closer to the Holy Grail: a distribution of health resources which is fairly distributed on the basis of health need. Read more
by guest contributor Paul Hodges
Shale gas developments in the US have sparked a wave of euphoria about the opportunity for a renaissance of its domestic manufacturing base. Petrochemicals should be one of the main beneficiaries, as the ethane produced from shale gas discoveries now provides the US with some of the cheapest feedstock in the world.
Major producers including Dow Chemicals, Shell and Chevron Phillips have already announced plans to build new ethane-based capacity. Others are likely to join them. Current estimates suggest total US ethylene capacity could therefore increase by 25 to 30 percent from today’s 27 million tonnes.
However, one key factor has the potential to spoil the story – much of this new capacity will need to be exported in the form of polyethylene (PE) and other major plastics. Yet as the chart shows, based on data from Global Trade Information Services, US net PE exports have actually been declining since 2010, even though its cost advantage from shale gas was increasing. Read more